As a pet owner myself, I understand how dogs, cats and other animals are often times more than just a pet. Many people consider their pets to be a member of the family and sometimes even refer to them as children. Therefore, when a divorce arises, spouses are often concerned about what will happen to the family pet.
Legally, what rights do I have to keep the family pet?
Although it may seem somewhat cold, under Colorado law pets are considered to be property. That means that you have the same rights to keep your pet as you do to keep other property, such as cars, furniture, houses, etc. In a divorce situation, the court is tasked with equitably dividing marital property. Therefore, when parties cannot agree on who keeps the pet, the court must consider all of the facts and make a decision on who will be awarded the pet.
Can we create a visitation schedule for the pet?
Yes! And it is not uncommon to do so. Often times parties will reach an agreement that they will alternate weeks with the pet. Likewise, if there are children involved, and the children have a close relationship with the pet, sometimes parties will agree that the pet should have the same visitation schedule as the children. In addition to giving both spouses time with the pet, having the pet stay with the children can provide some consistency and normalcy for children.
What if we can’t agree on a visitation schedule for our pet? Will the court create one for us?
Maybe. Occasionally a judge or magistrate will entertain the idea of creating a visitation schedule for a family pet. However, with busy caseloads and shortened hearings, the court does not always have the time to get into the details of a visitation schedule for a pet. More likely than not, the court will simply award the pet to one spouse or the other. Therefore, if a visitation schedule for a pet is important to you, you may be better off working out an agreement with your spouse rather than counting on the court to create a visitation schedule for you.
Who will pay for expenses related to the pet, such as vet bills, food, etc.?
Who will pay for a pet’s expenses after a divorce is highly dependent on who is awarded the pet as their property. The person who is awarded the pet will be responsible for the financial costs associated with the pet, just as the person who is awarded the house will pay for the mortgage, utilities, etc. after the divorce. In Colorado, there is no such thing as “child support” for pets, although if parties agree to a split visitation schedule, it may make sense for the parties to agree to split the costs of the pet as well.
If you are concerned about what will happen to the family pet as a part of the division of property in a divorce, you should consider consulting with a divorce lawyer about the specific facts of your case. Do you reside in Fort Collins, Colorado or the surrounding areas? Contact Ms. Monty today and schedule an early consultation to discuss your needs.