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Birmingham Divorce Lawyer > Blog > Divorce > Can You And Your Ex-Spouse Get Joint Custody Of Your Pets?

Can You And Your Ex-Spouse Get Joint Custody Of Your Pets?


Valentine’s Day is only weeks away, and you have almost decided to take the plunge and file for divorce, but one thing is stopping you.  Your financial situation has never been stellar during your marriage, and you may even be able to get into a better financial position once you are no longer responsible for footing the bill for your spouse’s new purchases.  It will be difficult to be a single parent, but your children have no doubt that you will always be there for them, and you have the emotional support of your friends and family.  Money and parenting time are not what are keeping you awake at night.  Rather, you can’t imagine your life without the family pets that you and your spouse adopted when they were small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, the dog you have lovingly walked every day since it first learned to wear a leash and the cat that purrs on your lap as you comb it to remove fleas.  What happens to family pets when a couple gets divorced?  The short answer is that the divorce court does not care, but a Birmingham divorce lawyer does.

Is Fluffy Marital Property?

Alabama law considers domestic animals property, whether they are household pets, priceless thoroughbred horses, or livestock.  Therefore, it applies the same laws to them during a divorce as it would do with any other kind of property.  The tortoise that kept you company in your college dorm room and your bachelor pad and then witnessed the rise and fall of your marriage is separate property, and unless Lonesome George is especially valuable for breeding purposes, you probably will not even have to compensate your ex-wife for a share of the reptile’s value.

Meanwhile, if you and your spouse adopted a puppy together while you are married, the dog is marital property, and you and your spouse must decide who gets to keep him.  Some unmarried couples who adopt pets sign prenuptial agreements to decide who keeps the animal in the event of a breakup, but these cases are the exception rather than the rule.

In practice, divorce courts rarely decide the future of family pets.  Alabama law requires couples who file for divorce to go through divorce mediation before the court will schedule a trial.  Only a minority of cases go to trial, and in these cases, the issues that the court must decide usually do not involve pets.  You and your spouse, with the help of your lawyers, will likely be able to reach an agreement during mediation.  Most couples decide that the parent with the majority of the parenting time should keep the pets, to maximize the time that the children and the pets can spend together, but in the end, the decision is up to the family.

Contact Peeples Law About Dividing Marital Property of Immense Sentimental Value

A Birmingham family law attorney can help you resolve sensitive issues during divorce mediation, including the question of who keeps the family pets.  Contact Peeples Law today to schedule a consultation.



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