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Birmingham Divorce Lawyer > Blog > Divorce > If You Want To Keep The Family Pet, Is The Law On Your Side?

If You Want To Keep The Family Pet, Is The Law On Your Side?


Even though pets are part of the family, and people can get as emotionally attached to them as they can to human family members, from a legal standpoint, domestic animals are property.  Case in point, some couples even stipulate in their prenuptial agreements which of them will keep which of the family pets in the event of a divorce.  Family law courts have witnessed heated battles over family dogs.  There don’t seem to be any divorce battles over family cats, perhaps since cats make it clear that they are going to stay in their home territory regardless of what humans and their silly laws have to say about the matter.  Unfortunately, there is no uniform set of guidelines about how judges should decide how to award possession of the family pet.  If you and your spouse have agreed on how you want to divide your material possessions but not on which of you should keep your dog, contact a Birmingham divorce lawyer.

The Court Doesn’t Care Who Loves Fido More

As important as it is to you that you get to keep your dog and your ex-spouse doesn’t, judges may be likely to see such disputes as a waste of the court’s time.  An adult dog, even if it is purebred, has negligible resale value, so from a legal perspective, the cost of arguing about a dog in court is higher than the cost of the animal itself.  Divorcing spouses might advance arguments about their greater role in caring for the dog as if they were trying to get the court to award them more parenting time for a child.  In child custody cases, it matters who bathes the young children and transports the school-aged children to and from school, but in the case of pets, it doesn’t.

If you and your spouse are truly at an impasse about who should keep your pet, it might be easier and less expensive to resolve the dispute through mediation or arbitration.  Remember that you can have your lawyer present at a mediation or arbitration session, just like you can at a court hearing.  In some cases, the parties will agree that whichever spouse gets to keep the family dog will compensate the other spouse, so that he or she can buy a new puppy.  In other cases, the parties will agree that each former spouse will spend certain days of the year with the dog, similar to a parenting plan for minor children.  If you go the timesharing route, you should incorporate this into your marital settlement agreement; a court, on its own initiative, will never decide that a dog gets to spend Christmas Eve with Mom in odd-numbered years and with Dad in even-numbered years.

Contact Peeples Law About Divorce Disputes Over Four-Legged Family Members

A Birmingham family law attorney can help you resolve disputes over any aspect of divorce, up to and including possession of the family pet.  Contact Peeples Law today to schedule a consultation.



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