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5 ways to take custody of your pet during a divorce

Your pet is a member of your family — but not in the eyes of Colorado law. Here, pets are legally considered property, meaning they are subject to the property division statute in the event of a divorce.

If you know you need a divorce, but are scared to lose Fido to your ex-spouse, read these questions to learn which arguments could potentially win over your pet in a divorce.

Is the pet marital or separate?

The difference between marital and separate property has to do with when and how you acquired the asset. A pet would be considered “marital” (shared) property if the pet was acquired during the marriage.

However, if the pet was gifted or inherited to only one spouse during the marriage, the pet would belong to that spouse as his or her “separate” property. The pet is also considered separate property if it belonged to one spouse before the marriage.

Marital property would normally be divided in an “equitable” manner. If your pet is considered shared property, you may be able to make an argument explaining why it is most fair that the pet belongs with you.

Who cares for the animal most?

If you are responsible for most of the financial and caretaking responsibilities for the pet, you may be able to argue that the pet should belong to you. To make the argument, consider the following questions:

  • Who currently pays for your pet’s veterinary bills?
  • Who usually feeds, walks and grooms the animal?
  • Who paid for the pet?
  • Who is able to spend more time with the animal?
  • Who can afford to care for and house the pet?

Do you have children?

Because the marital home is often granted to the primary parent of the children, it may also make sense for a pet that is considered “marital” property to be granted to the primary parent. Having the pet around the children may also be in the children’s best interests, which is the primary concern of custody court.

Can each person have a pet?

If one spouse already has an animal that belongs to him or her as “separate” property, the marital pet may be given to the spouse that would otherwise be left without a pet.

Is joint custody an option?

If you and your ex-spouse are able and willing to cooperate with one another, you may be able to share the animal by setting up a visitation schedule. It is unlikely that the court will make or order a custody arrangement for your animal, as they would for children. However, you and your spouse may devise a schedule as a condition of a “property settlement.” The conditions of the settlement may also include other related compromises.

Unable to reach an agreement?

If you and your ex-spouse are unable to reach an agreement concerning how the pet will be handled, a judge may advise that you either sell the pet or give it away to a suitable owner.

To learn more about property division in a divorce or to receive legal advice concerning your pet, ask the help of a lawyer. A good family law attorney can provide you with a solid strategy to retain what’s rightfully yours and come to a settlement everyone can agree with.

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