Should Pets Be Treated Like Children In A Divorce?

| Feb 3, 2017 | Divorce |

Alaska is making waves, thanks to a recent amendment to the state’s divorce statute that calls for pets to be treated more like children and less like property.

According to an article from the Denver Post, the new amendment asks Alaska judges to take the well-being of the dog, cat or other pet into consideration. Judges now have the ability to order joint custody over animals.

A Major Departure

This is a significant departure from how this issue is handled in other states. Despite the fact that most people see pets as members of the family, laws address them as pieces of property.

Of course, these are not assets that can be easily divided. One spouse is not going to be as willing to buy out his or her share in a dog, cat or other animal like he or she might with the family home or car. For that reason, the division of a pet is often at the heart of serious divorce disputes. The change in Alaska’s divorce law may prevent these battles.

Since this is a new development, only time will tell how it works out. If it does, other states may eventually follow suit. If you are going through a divorce now, however, it is important to understand how your state addresses pets in divorce.

How Pet Custody Works In Colorado

Like most other states, Colorado law sees pets as property. Colorado is an equitable property division state, which means that marital property, including pets, is to be divided in a fair and equitable manner. It is important to note that separate property, which includes property acquired before the marriage, is not subject to division. If a spouse can prove a pet is separate property, that spouse will be able to keep the pet.

While the law addresses pets as property in divorce, when these cases make it into the courtroom, the judge will have discretion. Different judges look at this matter differently. In making a decision, the judge may take into account factors that would more typically apply in child custody matters, such as who spends time with the pet and who cares for it.

If you are concerned about what will happen to your pet in your divorce, you should enlist an experienced attorney to help you protect this important relationship.

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