Most pet owners think of their animals as companions, not property. However, the law regards them as the latter. This can create a stressful situation when deciding who should keep the family pets in a divorce.
Arkansas is an equitable distribution state, meaning the court divides marital property fairly but not necessarily equally. When it comes to deciding who gets the pets, the same rules apply, but there are some special considerations.
If the animal belonged to one spouse prior to marriage, the court may award the animal to the person who adopted or purchased it. However, this is not always the case.
If one spouse handled most of the animal’s care, the court may award the pet to that spouse even if the other spouse was the original owner. Vet records can help establish which spouse took on more responsibility for the care of the pet.
Considering the pet’s needs
Although pets are legally property, their welfare is an important consideration. The court might consider which spouse can better care for the pet. This might mean having an appropriate space for the animal, such as a fenced-in yard, or having a flexible work schedule that leaves plenty of time to care for a pet.
If a child has a strong attachment to the pet, the court may consider this as well. In this case, awarding the pet to the custodial parent may be in the best interest of both the child and the animal.
Deciding who should get the family pets is a complicated decision. It is important to consider the well-being of everyone involved, including the animals.