pet custody battle

Pet Custody Battles in Divorce

Bringing two lives together in marriage takes work and effort—the process of separating those lives during a divorce takes at least as much work. This is very clear when you look at the issues of pets in a divorce. When you have two people who love the family pet, trying to decide who keeps them after a divorce can cause a stalemate.

If you’re struggling with pet custody issues or other hang-ups in your divorce case, trust the team at Coumanis & York. Call us at 251-990-3083 to schedule a consultation now.

How Alabama Laws Look at Pets

There are some states that recognize the importance of a pet’s wellbeing when choosing which party keeps them in a divorce. Some states, such as Alaska, even allow for joint custody of pets. Other states across the nation are considering similar bills to protect pets.

However, Alabama is not currently one of those states. Under Alabama law, pets are property to be divided in a divorce. They have no more inherent value than a non-living asset or piece of property. As a result, a pet is subject to the same standards of division as any other piece of property.

This is only the case if a pet is considered marital property. If one spouse owned the pet prior to the marriage, the pet may be considered separate property and stay with their original owner. This may not be the case if both spouses built strong bonds with the pet, provided their care, paid for vet bills, and otherwise acted as owners. If the pet was acquired during the marriage, the spouses will either have to come to an agreement regarding ownership or the court will be permitted to decide who keeps the pet.

Equitable Distribution in Alabama

Equitable distribution in Alabama means that property is not split 50/50. The court will consider a wide variety of factors when determining who keeps ownership of the family pets. Relevant factors include the value of the property, how much income and earning potential each party has, and whether or not one party’s actions caused the breakdown of the marriage.

Coming to an Agreement with Your Ex

While you can allow the court to decide who maintains ownership of your pets, most people prefer to come to an agreement with their ex. Putting it in the court’s hands means that you have no say in the outcome, even if neither of you agree with it.

You may choose instead to have your attorney negotiate for ownership of the pet. If this is a top priority for you, please know that you will likely need to compromise in other areas of the divorce agreement. If your number one goal is to walk away with your pets, you may have to give up ownership of other assets, spousal support, or your role in a family business. The more important it is to you, the more power the other party has during negotiations.

Make sure to keep your pet’s best interests in mind while negotiating. Pet ownership can be expensive and time-consuming, and for their benefit, they should get to stay with the party who can meet their care needs.

If you and your ex cannot come to an agreement, you can strengthen your case with the court. You may want to provide proof that you paid for vet appointments and took your pet to those appointments, took on the majority of their daily care, and are well-versed in their health needs.

Splitting Time

Some couples do choose to split time with pets after a divorce. This is a fairly uncommon arrangement, as most people don’t want anything to tie them to their ex-spouse after the split. If you do go this route, know that you will need to work together to set up schedules, provide for the pet’s health needs, and ensure that your pet gets the exercise they need. It’s also important to know that changes in the environment can be stressful for pets. Even if you and your ex-partner agree on a split time, that might not be what is best for your pet.

Get the Divorce Support You Need with Coumanis & York

If you’ve decided that divorce is your next step, you need an attorney who can protect your rights through this stressful process. We can help. Schedule a consultation with Coumanis & York now by calling us at 251-990-3083 or contacting us online.

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