Dealing with Pets During Divorce

  • By:Karpenski & Schmelkin

During a divorce, there are many issues that may arise. One issue that is becoming more present during a divorce is who retains the pet after the divorce is final. In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, pets are considered property subject to an equitable division.

Understanding Pet “Visitation Rights” in Massachusetts

If parties are fighting over who retains the pet after divorce, an option the parties have is to negotiate a “pet visitation” schedule.  A “pet visitation schedule” would allow both parties ownership, access, and rights to the pet post-divorce. However, in the event the parties do not agree on a “pet visitation” schedule, it is important to know that the court will not order a visitation schedule. Rather the Court will order one party ownership, access, and rights to the pet post-divorce as his/her separate property.

How a “Pet Visitation” Schedule Relates to Prenuptial Agreements

Pet ownership rights and “visitation” schedules can be addressed in prenuptial agreements. If a party owns a pet prior to getting married, and ownership of the pet is not addressed in the prenuptial agreement, and the parties subsequently get divorced, the Court will likely enter an order relative to the pet as part of the equitable division of the marital estate. If a party wants to protect his/her own ownership rights to a pet, it is important to address those rights in the prenuptial agreement.

Division of Pets in a Divorce

The Court will consider the same factors it considers in dividing up any other asset and liability of the marital estate when entering orders relative to pets as part of divorce.

Some of the key factors the court will consider are:

  1. When was the pet acquired;
  2. What the parties’ respective financial contributions towards the acquisition, care, and maintenance of the pet were;
  3. What the parties’ respective non-economic financial contributions towards the care of the pet were;
  4. Who is the licensed and registered owner of the pet;
  5. Whether the pet provides emotional support to one of the parties;
  6. The age of the pet;
  7. The needs of the parties and the pet;
  8. Whether there are children born of the marriage and any attachments the children may have to the pet.

Whether you are contemplating divorce or going through a divorce, and own a pet, you need an experienced divorce practitioner who will best protect and represent your interests. For exceptional assistance, contact the knowledgeable and experienced attorneys at Karpenski & Schmelkin.

Posted in: Divorce