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Property division: Changing viewpoints concerning pet "custody"

Deciding to divorce may be just the beginning of a long, emotional process. Besides determining the best child custody arrangement when minor children are involved, property division issues must also be addressed. Each state has its own laws regarding how a couple's assets and belongings will be divided, and California is no exception. However one state has just made a significant change in it's divorce guidelines.

In many aspects, those who share their homes and live with pets often view them much the same as they do their human family. As a result, when a divorce becomes reality, it may be difficult to decide how the pets are handled. One state has recently determined that a couple's pets should be considered in a manner similar to child custody proceedings. 

As a result of this change, the family court system Alaska is compelled to take these animals into consideration when deciding who gets custody of them. Recently, one divorcing couple came up with a shared custody arrangement for their two dogs. While this is not the normal approach in most situations, it may become more common as more courts recognize the fact that many families treat their pets as their "children."

Most states view domestic pets as property, and as a result, they are subject to the usual property division laws in their state. Now that Alaska has taken a different approach, it remains to be seen if other states will follow suit. In California, many judges take the well-being of these animals into consideration in divorce proceedings and are amenable to allowing a couple to decide on a custody arrangement if they are able to do so on their own. If a family is having difficulty settling on pet custody or any other issue concerning a divorce, a family law attorney can help fashion a fair and comprehensive agreement.

Source: USA Today, "Alaska will treat pets more like kids in divorce courts", Jonathan Petramala, Jan. 25, 2017

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Victoria S. Linder Law Office
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