Pets and Divorce: Some States Recognizing Wellbeing of Animals in Divorce Cases

Anyone who has cuddled up on the couch with their beloved dog would agree with the statement that for many people, dogs aren’t pieces of property that can be haphazardly divided, but rather are family members, or in the least, animals with rights that need to be considered. Now, family law courts across the country are recognizing that as well, and several states have enacted divorce law statutes stating just that.

Alaska became the first state to adopt such a measure, doing so in 2017. Illinois followed suit in 2018, and California then joined the club in 2019. State-by-state, the laws are a bit different. For instance, in Alaska, considering the wellbeing of the animal is a requirement. In California, judges have the opportunity to consider the wellbeing of the animal but are not generally required to in all cases.

So how do you consider the wellbeing of a pet in a divorce case? You’d have to think about who cares for and is best able to care for the animal. That may include matters such as living and working arrangements, the financial capability of caring for the animal, and even whether the animal is strongly attached to just one of the two parties.

It should also be noted that most people will immediately think about dogs in divorce. However, the aforementioned laws actually deal with all animals that are household pets for the couple. So whether it’s a cat or an iguana, the animal would qualify.

When states begin passing measures such as these dealing with pets and divorce, it’s not uncommon for the movement to pick up momentum across the country. Even for much more hotly debated matters, such as medical marijuana and then fully legalized recreational marijuana, and same sex marriage, once a trickle of states began to pass such measures, others began to do so more rapidly.

In a few years time, it wouldn’t be a total surprise to see many more states across the country also recognizing the rights of pets in divorce. Also consider that there are animal cruelty laws in place that can result in jail time for offenders. Therefore, viewing animals as beings that have rights and need their wellbeing protected isn’t exactly a great leap of logic.

Of course, as we’ve been discussing, pets in divorce is a matter that is handled by individual states. If you’re moving through a divorce case or may be doing so in the future, you only have to consider the official statutes of your own state. That’s also why it always makes sense to work with a seasoned professional who is familiar with all local regulations.

Caring for the wellbeing of animals is something that’s important to so many people, and seeing that through to considering their wellbeing in the matter of pets and divorce cases is a positive step forward.

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