How Are Pets and Emotional Support Animals Handled in Divorce
People love their pets and emotional support animals, and often treat them as a part of the family. When going through a divorce, you have to consider what happens to your pets and what they are considered in the eyes of the law. For example, are pets considered to be more like property, or are they considered to be more like children and subject to custody laws?
What Happens to Your Pets?
The answer to the question varies. In some states, like California, they are considered to be more like children, and decisions are made in the best interest of the pets. However, in Arizona, pets are considered to be property. This means that they are subject to community property rules since it is a community property state.
This means that if the pet or emotional support animal was bought during the marriage, it belongs to the community. This is true even if you were the one who went out and purchased the pet and cared for it the entire time. Technically, it will be community property. This means that you would need to put a value on the pet. However, it’s difficult to put a value on a pet because they are worth more than the value you paid for it. They have more than monetary value. There is an emotional attachment and bond
Of course, even though the pets are considered to be property, you can’t divide a pet the same way you would other types of property. If you had a couch and you and your ex can’t determine what you want to do with the couch, the judge might order you to sell the couch and to split the profit. However, the judge will not order you to sell your pet.
Companion Animals and Emotional Support Animals
Instead, it will be considered a value item that will be allocated to one spouse or the other. Many factors are considered when trying to value a companion animal. It’s important to keep in mind that pets also have costs. Couples will often fight over who needs to pay for those needs, such as their food, medication, grooming needs, etc. It can cost a substantial amount of money each month to properly care for a pet.
Couples will often treat a pet more like a child than an asset. Often, couples will come up with agreements for sharing the custody of the animal and to share expenses. These types of agreements are not something that a judge would order. If you agree to share expenses and custody of the pet in your divorce decree, you are bound by that, and it can be enforced.
What about emotional support animals? Often one of the spouses will have a closer attachment to the animal than the other spouse. In those cases, one spouse could try to use the animal as leverage. They might try to make a claim to the pet, so they can have a stronger position when they are trying to negotiate. They might also do this out of spite if they are upset with their ex.
Something that you might want to consider doing is talking with a physician about getting a prescription to have the pet be considered among active emotional support animals. If you can do this, it can help your ownership claim when you are going through the divorce. It is more likely that the judge will grant the animal to you since it’s something that you need medically. If you are anticipating that there could be a fight or that your ex might try to use the pet as leverage, getting a prescription to make your pet an emotional support animal is a good idea.
Splitting Custody of the Animal
As mentioned, a judge in Arizona is not likely to order custody for a pet It will go to one party or the other. However, you can always talk with your spouse about the possibility of sharing custody and having it added to the divorce decree. Why might you want to do this? There are a couple of reasons.
If both you and your ex are attached to your pet, then you would want to make sure that both of you get to see the animal. You wouldn’t want to deny your ex the right to see the pet. Of course, pets also form attachments to their owners. You would want your dog to be able to see your ex in most cases. Maybe they like to take the dog to the park or out hiking, and you want your dog to continue experiencing those activities with your ex.
Another reason that you might need to consider splitting custody of emotional support animals is when you have children. In Arizona, child custody is usually 50/50. The kids will be spending half their time at each parent’s house. If you have a family pet, and only the mother has the dog, for example, it will mean that the dog would be away from the kids half the time. By sharing custody of the dog, as well, the kids will have their dog, and the dog will have their kids. This is often a better solution for the happiness and health of your children, as well as your pet.
Ideally, you and your ex will be able to work out an arrangement with your pets that satisfies both of you and is in the best interest of the pets. The pets shouldn’t have to suffer just because you and your ex are no longer together.
Work with an Attorney that Understands
When you are going through a divorce, you don’t want to try to handle it all on your own. It’s a lot to handle, and you need to have someone with the experience and know-how to help you make it through the divorce. If you have a pet, you may want to consider working with an attorney that has helped people to get the pet in the divorce and who understands how important your pet is to you. Find out how to register your US Service Animals here.