Deciding Who Gets the Pets in an Arizona Divorce

Deciding Who Gets the Pets in an Arizona Divorce

Pets may be treated akin to family members, but when it comes to divorce, they are considered property. If acquired during the marriage, they are part of the community property that must be divided evenly between the spouses. Since an animal can’t be divided, judges consider multiple relevant factors in deciding on who will be awarded the pet.

A judge has no authority to grant shared ownership of a pet in a divorce. One spouse or the other will be awarded the animal. If the pet preexisted the marriage, it is the separate property of the original owner and he or she will get to keep it. If the spouses obtained the pet during the marriage, it is considered community property, so a determination must be made as to who is most deserving to keep it.

If the spouses cannot decide between themselves, the trial judge will make the determination. Unlike some states, Arizona does not use a “best interests of the pet” approach in the decision on awarding possession. Nevertheless, a judge is likely to consider a range of factors, including these:

  • Did one spouse primarily pay for the pet when it was acquired?
  • Did one spouse provide more care for the pet, including veterinary costs?
  • Who is in a better position to care for the pets moving forward?
  • Does the pet require any special care, due to age or illness?
  • Is there any history of domestic violence or abuse in the household?
  • If there are children of the marriage, is it in their best interests for the pets to remain with the custodial parent?

Resolving these issues outside of a judicial determination is highly advisable. Judges in fact favor having these disputes settled voluntarily. One common method is to enter a separate agreement regarding possession of the animal. This can include terms for alternate possession of the animal on a set schedule, similar to a custody arrangement. It can also provide for sharing the costs of caring for the animal. If you have trouble coming to agreement on these issues, you can seek mediation, which is available through the family court.

An experienced Arizona family law attorney understands the issues involved in Arizona community property laws, including disputes over who gets the pets in a divorce. While these contests can be highly emotional, an attorney can help you resolve them as part of a beneficial property settlement.

Clark & Schloss Family Law, P.C. in Scottsdale, Arizona dedicates its practice to family law, including pet custody issues. We have a wide range of experience in the field. Please call 602-789-3497 or contact us online for a free initial consultation.