In a New York divorce, couples must determine how property, assets, and debts are divided. If children are involved, they must decide who has primary custody to figure out who has to pay child support and create a visitation schedule. However, it seems like another point of contention during a divorce deals with who will get the family pet.
According to a survey performed by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, 27 percent of those who responded—consisting of divorce attorneys—had observed an increase in divorce cases involving pet custody within the past half-decade. The significant majority of these cases involved dogs, followed by cats and other types of pets.
While some states treat pets as property, making them subject to property division, others have started to treat them in the same manner as child custody. For instance, Alaska became the first state to give family law judges the discretion to decide who gets custody of the family pet. In 2018, Illinois started requiring judges to consider the best interests of the animals when determining pet custody.
When it comes to divorce in New York, the courts have traditionally considered animals as property; however, that has changed over the years. But because pet custody is not the same as child custody, judges cannot use “the best interests of the child” standard for animals.
The New York court is allowed to use a “best for all concerned” standard when deciding who gets custody of the family pet. Judges will consider how the pet was acquitted, how the pet was taken care of throughout the marriage, who provided this care, and if children are involved. The courts allow spouses to create a custody arrangement which details how much time each spouse will spend with the pet once the divorce is finalized. If one spouse gets primary custody of the children, the court often awards this person custody of the family pet as well.
At Goldweber Epstein LLP, we can evaluate the specific circumstances of your divorce to determine how the New York judges will consider your case. With more than 30 years of experience, our New York City divorce attorney can guide you through the complexities of the family law system and protect your rights and best interests.
For more information about divorce and family pet custody, contact us and schedule an appointment for a consultation today.