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How will New York courts handle your pet in a divorce?

People often refer to dogs as man's best friend. There is no question that you become very attached to your pet, whether it's a dog or a cat. However, your spouse likely feels a similar level of attachment. If you don't have children, that could make your pet one of the major sticking points in your upcoming divorce.

In fact, even if you have children, the custody of your dog or cat could play a significant role in divorce proceedings. After all, the children are likely attached to your pet as well. Understanding how the courts in New York handle the custody of animals can help you make better decisions in your divorce. You may hope to arrange an actual custody schedule, but that isn't likely.

The New York courts won't treat your pet like a child

Early in 2019, the state of California enacted a law that allows the courts to create a custody schedule for pets. In other words, the courts will essentially treat beloved family animals like children when it comes to divorce.

The family courts in New York will not take the same approach. Custody arrangements would have to be an informal agreement between divorcing spouses. The courts are most likely going to allocate the pet like a possession to one spouse or the other.

The courts will consider the needs of all parties concerned

Determining custody for children involves the court deciding what is in the best interest of the children. They take a similar, though slightly different, approach to handling animals. Instead of establishing the best interest for the pet, the courts will instead look at what resolution will be best for all parties involved.

In a divorce with small children, that could mean sending the pet with the parent who has primary custody of the children. Other times, it could mean that the pet will become the property of the spouse who has more time to spend at home with the animal. In certain circumstances, such as pre-existing ownership before the marriage, the courts may allow the person who originally owned the animal to retain it.

Pet custody is an issue you should handle directly

Who is to have custody or ownership of your beloved pet is a serious concern and you shouldn't leave the outcome of the proceedings to chance. Instead, you should negotiate with your ex to try to work something out before going to court.

The courts are less likely to come up with a creative and flexible solution than they are to simply give the animal to one person. You can both benefit from the certainty that you will have an ongoing relationship with your pet.

If you don't feel capable of negotiating things on your own, your attorney may be able to discuss the issue with your ex's attorney. Barring an out-of-court resolution, you will have to abide by what the courts decide regarding who retains ownership of your pet.

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