The family pet: an emerging family law issue

On behalf of Stange Law Firm, PC posted in Family Law on Thursday, June 14, 2018.

Pets are generally treated as beloved family members. The court systems, however, tend to see a pet as property, even in cases of disputed divorces. For some individuals in Missouri, custody of the family pet becomes a contentious issue when settling a divorce in family law court. With the exception of two states, courts will treat a pet as personal property, but attitudes about this issue are changing.

Since pets are loved like family members, both parties in a divorce may have a strong desire to maintain a relationship with that pet. While some judges will take into account who spends the greater amount of time and money on the pet, sometimes, individuals can be ordered to sell the pet and split the proceeds. One party may be required to buy out the other party in order to receive the pet.

For now, the best bet to determine pet custody is to independently reach an agreement with one’s ex for either sharing time or determining ownership. When the situation reaches court, the pet issue will be handled like property and not necessarily on the best interests of the pet. Attitudes about pets are changing, however, and new laws may reflect more the rights and best interests of a pet versus the pet’s monetary value.

Individuals in Missouri go to family law courts in order to settle many types of issues. Issues such as divorce, prenuptial agreements, and yes, even pet custody will be handled through the court system. Since some of the issues can be complicated or emotionally trying, many individuals reach out for help. An experienced attorney can provide guidance on a number of family law issues.

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