Taking care of pets during and after divorce

Divorce affects the whole family, not just the couple about to split. For many married couples, pets are a part of the family unit. Imagining living separately from a beloved pet is a difficult thing to face. Under Colorado law, pets are property – meaning there is no custody of pets granted to either person in divorce. Pets are treated like other assets to be divided, such as furniture or artwork. As such, a judge will determine who gets what property, including pets, depending on the length of the marriage, the income of each party to the divorce and other factors. A judge may consider who owned the pet before marriage, for example, but does not need to factor in emotional wellbeing of the pet or which living arrangement the pet would prefer.

While the law treats pets as property, and handles the matter entirely differently than child custody, many of the same principles involved in resolving child custody issues transfer to who gets to keep the pets. For example, it is well known that divorce can cause stress and uncertainty in children. The same is true for pets. As pet owners are aware, animal companions can easily pick up on human emotions. Attempting to limit arguments, trying to stick to the same schedule, and treating a pet the same as ever will help a furry companion to still feel safe and loved no matter what living arrangement or schedule the divorcing couple ultimately decides on.

Establishing pet living arrangements

A couple can decide a pet parenting plan, if they are able to, that will allow both exes to remain involved in the lives of their loving companions and forego the need to have the court decide the matter. A pet could rotate homes every couple of weeks, or one ex could have the pet on weekends, for example. The exact details can be negotiated, and it is often in the best interest of pets – just like it is for children – for the couple to compromise and work with each other.

It is also wise to keep in mind the living circumstances of each ex after the divorce. Often one or both exes will downsize living space after divorce. A pet may be happier spending more time at a place with outdoor living space, for example, than an apartment if that is feasible.

An attorney can help

With the number of issues that need to be resolved in divorce, pets can be an afterthought to the court. However, resolving pet custody is a growing obstacle for many divorcing couples. Colorado residents who are divorcing or considering filing for divorce should speak to an experienced family law attorney at Front Range Family Law to discuss issues regarding pet custody and other matters.