Who Gets the Pets in a Divorce?

In News by YKF Law

Each couple that gets divorced has to divvy up their assets. It can be a difficult process when it comes to deciding who gets that expensive piece of furniture or who gets to keep the marital home. Another thing to consider is who gets the pets in a divorce.

If you’ve ever owned a pet then you know the unconditional love they give and how much a positive impact they can have on our lives. Most households own pets – according to the American Pet Products Association, 70% of households in the United States own a pet.

So what happens with our furry friends when married couples split? Keep reading to learn who gets the pets in a divorce.

Pets are Considered Property in a Divorce

During the divorce process, the court will treat family pets as property. The manner in which pets will be divided up will be governed by Missouri or Kansas Law for property division, including whether the pets will be considered Marital or Non-Marital (separate) property.

In doing so, the Court considers a number of factors. Was the pet acquired by one of the spouses prior to the marriage? Was the pet acquired during the marriage? Was the pet taken care of using marital funds? Most of the time a pet is viewed as marital property if it was acquired during the marriage and marital funds were used to pay for food, veterinary bills, toys, etc.

Where Will the Pet Live?

While most married couples share pets and both have a special bond with the animal, usually only one gets the pet in the divorce. It can be painful to think about losing a pet, especially when your marriage has ended. As painful as it is, the pet will be divided in the divorce much like other property such as TVs, furniture, and vehicles.

Each divorce case is unique; not all property is divided the same way. When it comes to where a pet will live, there are a few things for the court to consider. The Court will determine the type of property the pet is, such as Marital or Non-Marital, and assign it accordingly.

If you have children and are going through the custody process then the court may consider the impact on the children in assigning the pets. If a child has a strong bond with the pet, the court may consider giving the pet to the parent who has more time with the children for their benefit.

There are currently no laws in place in both Missouri and Kansas regarding the best interest of pets. Only three states have statutes that govern custodial rights for pets: Alaska, California, and Illinois. These states determine who gets custody of the pets as well as determining who pays pet support.

Can we Share the Custody of the Pet(s)?

While there are currently no statutes regarding custodial rights for pets in Missouri and Kansas, you and your spouse can determine a plan for sharing custody of the pet in your settlement agreement. If you’re able to work amicably, you can come up with a “parenting” plan for your pet as well as a financial agreement for Fido. 

As previously mentioned, pets are considered property in both Missouri and Kansas, so there aren’t any statutes that determine who gets the pets in a divorce. However, there are measures you and your spouse can take to determine what’s best for the pet and how to handle custody and financial responsibility of the pet.

If you’re currently going through a divorce or if you’re searching for a child custody attorney, the family law attorneys at The Law Office of Young, Kuhl & Frick, LLC can help. We can also help you come up with a plan for your pets in your settlement agreement through our mediation services which we offer at our office. We’re dedicated to the practice of family law and can help guide you through any family law matter keeping your best interests in mind. With over fifty-four years of combined legal experience, our family law firm is comprised of a team that’s skilled in both negotiation and litigation, handling family law matters from the most complex to the most straightforward.

We have offices in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, and Leawood, Kansas (consultations by appointment only). In addition to our two physical locations, our firm’s family and divorce attorneys have practiced in Jackson, Clay, Cass, Lafayette, and Platte County, Missouri as well as Johnson County, Kansas. Contact our family law firm today to schedule a consultation – we’re able to meet in person or face-to-face via Zoom.