Are pets more like property or more like children? What the law says, what the local rules say, and how judges behave can differ greatly on a case-by-case basis, which is why it’s important to retain the services of a lawyer who’s practicing in the area where you are getting divorced. Some judges may be animal lovers and more likely to treat your pet like a child while others may strictly interpret the law to state that pets are community property to be valued and divided. Property is never shared. It is awarded to one spouse or the other.
Mesa is located in a community property state. This means that when a couple gets married, a community is created. Everything that one spouse does, they do on behalf of the community.
So, if you or your spouse buys a pet, the community bought the pet. As a result, your pets may be subject to distribution during divorce litigation. For this reason, you should consider reaching out to a Mesa pet custody lawyer to learn more about how the court treats animals in a marriage dissolution.
An equitable distribution in Arizona is an equal distribution of property, meaning each spouse should walk away with the same value of property be it cash, real estate, or items of value. For example, if the community is worth $100,000, generally, each person should get $50,000 worth of property. It doesn’t mean that you have to get half of the equity in the home and half of retirement; one person could take all the retirement, or somebody could take half of the home or all of the home. You can offset different types of property, but overall, distribution needs to be roughly equal.
What about Pets?
People love their pets, but it may be unclear whether they are considered property or treated more like children who are subject to custody laws. In Mesa divorces, according to community property law, pets are considered property and are subject to community property rules.
That means if your pet was purchased during your marriage by either of you, it technically belongs to the community, which means it’s subject to equitable distribution. It follows that you would have to put a value on your pet.
Generally, if a couple is fighting over a couch, the judge might say, “Sell the couch and split the money.” However, you’re less likely to do that with a pet. A pet’s value is far beyond the value at which it is sold, and there are also expenses associated with a pet. Fortunately, most judges in the Mesa family court located at 222 N Javelina Dr do not ask divorcing spouses to sell their pets and split the money, and many do consider which household or pet parent is better equipped to meet the needs of the animals.
Can You Split the Cost of a Pet?
A court doesn’t have the authority to award child support for your pets unless you agree to it. A pet custody lawyer in Mesa can help you draft a legally valid agreement which includes terms about the care of your animals. Some couples agree to split the costs of a pet; one party may keep the animals during these months and the other during alternate months, or one party may keep the animals until the other has a housing situation where they can take the pets with them.
Whatever agreement the two of you come up with will likely be honored by the court. If you’re fighting over a pet, you have to get really creative, and you need to be thinking about the laws of community property, gifts, and perhaps getting a prescription or some sort of designation that your pet is an emotional support animal.
Get in Touch with a Mesa Pet Custody Attorney Today
Pets can heal your energy and bring a lightheartedness and a comforting nature to an otherwise tumultuous divorce. The more that we can allow our pets to share that gift, the better.
For this reason, pet custody is one of the hardest parts of a marriage dissolution. We understand how hard it can be for divorcing couples, and in some ways, it’s harder than deciding the care and custody of kids. With kids, we’ve got statutes, and case law, and we know what to do.
With pets, we really don’t have those points of reference. We have their legal classification as property, which is completely inadequate to actually deal with what pets mean to families, to children, and to couples that might be getting divorced.
Fortunately, our Mesa pet custody lawyers have experience with helping divorcing couples figure out what to do with their animals. For more details on how to handle your pet custody issues, call our firm today.