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.
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.
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.
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:
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.