What happens when pets show up on the negotiating table during a divorce
Outside of children, pets are some of the most beloved members of the family that usually come in after a couple moves in together. Whether it's a dog, cat or hedgehog, most people consider their pets babies, and hold them near and dear to their heart. However, what happens when you fall out of love with your spouse while you're still in love with your fur babies? What legal rights come into play when a divorce or separation threatens to take them away?
Well, as much as you may think Fido is just as much a family member as your child, the state of California sees him or her as personal property (check your local laws, however, if you're outside of the Golden State). That means they are, in the eyes of the court, the same as the flat-screen TV or the Ferrari bought that kicked off the whole divorce proceedings. The twist comes in when the question of how the pet was acquired. If it was bought at a pet store or money was used to pay the adoption fee at the shelter, then it is considered a "marital asset."
That means that a whole bunch of bad stuff can happen if an agreement as to who takes home the pet after the divorce doesn't get resolved before it arrives at the judge's desk. That's because just like the aforementioned TV and Ferrari, the judge can order Fido to be put up for auction.
But no judge wants to be put in that position because, honestly, it's not a child. The idea of whether or not fluffy will be better in one house or the other isn't worth his or her time. So we suggest both parties, before getting to the negotiating table, work this out. Not only does it show that your divorce can possibly be settled hospitably, but it puts the pet's future in the hands of the people who know it (and what it needs) best – you.