Deciding who gets the pet when going through a divorce

A family pet is more than just an animal; it is quite literally a member of the family. Unfortunately, when it comes to divorce, the state of Massachusetts says otherwise. Here, a pet is nothing more than property. With that being said, seeking a divorce settlement that includes placing the animal in the best possible living situation is still possible.

If a divorce case ends up being litigated and a judge gets to decide how property is ultimately divided, there will be little thought or care for where the family pet ends up. It is sad, but currently, the state does not have any pet custody laws. The courts also do not have the authority to order one spouse to pay the other financial support to care for the family pet.

Pet custody and support are things that more people in Massachusetts and elsewhere would like to see included in divorce agreements. While waiting for state laws to catch up with the desires of the people, those interested in these things will have to work out private contracts, which they can do with the assistance of legal counsel. These agreements can be put in writing so that both parties are on the same page about pet care.

Wanting to ensure the family pet ends up in a good place is understandable. Sometimes, it makes more sense for the animal to live with one party as opposed to the other — such as if one will have a yard post-divorce and the other will not or if one’s work schedule allows for more time with the pet than the other’s. Just because it makes sense for one party to have the pet does not mean giving up the animal is easier for the other party. If shared custody of the family pet is desired or financial support to care for the animal is wanted, working out a divorce agreement that offers these things is possible if both parties are willing to negotiate the terms.


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