Nearly 1,500 members of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers were polled recently regarding pets. About 25 percent of those polled have seen a rise in the number of divorce cases involving which party gets custody of the family pet. As these numbers continue to increase, it may be necessary for state laws, including those here in Utah, to treat pets as more than simple asset division in family law.
People here in Utah and across the country treat their pets as members of the family. However, current law considers them to be property just like furniture or a bank account. As such, most courts will not entertain visitation schedules or other traditional custody issues as they do for children. Even so, the courts will hear evidence to determine whether a pet is separate property or marital property.
If a couple wants to create their own custody and visitation schedule, they are free to do so. These arrangements can be part of the divorce settlement. If the couple has children, the pet’s visitation schedule could mirror that of the children since they are often attached to the family pet. Provisions for the pet’s expenses can also be included in such agreements.
When the parties take matters into their own hands and do not leave the fate of their pet up to the court, many other options become available. Most people would agree that there is much more to the relationship between humans and their pets than the laws of asset division can cover. Until the law catches up with society’s view of pets as family, couples may be more satisfied with an agreement negotiated outside the courtroom.
Source: allenpub.com, “Divorce? Who gets the pets?!”, , July 18, 2014