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How a beloved pet could complicate an Alabama divorce

On Behalf of | Oct 19, 2022 | Family Law

Adding a pet to your family is a major responsibility. It means assuming all of the financial costs for their nutritional needs and any healthcare support they require. You have to clean up after the animal, keep them engaged and entertained and even consider them when planning your vacations.

For all of the work involved, pets reward their human keepers with love, loyalty and fun. Your pets are likely a major part of your daily life. If you have children, your kids undoubtedly have a strong attachment to the animals in your household.

Unfortunately, pets can be a major complicating factor in your upcoming Alabama divorce. What will happen with the pets living in your home at the end of your marriage?

From a legal perspective, pets are property

You may feel like your dog is a member of your immediate family. You may celebrate their birthday and put a stocking up for them around the holidays. However, the courts won’t share your assessment of the animal’s role in your family. A family law judge typically has to treat companion animals like property.

During litigated property division, a pet has a fixed value and will influence other property division decisions. A judge will not arrange for shared pet custody, even if a family wants to share custody of the animal. One spouse will retain ownership of the pet, and the other will receive other assets worth a comparable financial value.

Shared pet custody arrangements are possible

If you believe that sharing time with your pet or at least giving your ex visitation access is important for the animal’s well-being or the happiness of your children, you and your ex could potentially reach your own Arrangements regarding custody of your pet.

For example, you could agree that the dog will travel between the parents’ houses with the children or allow the spouse with the more demanding career to arrange for visits with the animal, provided that they give 24-hours’ notice. While an Alabama family law judge will not hear litigation over such terms, they can approve a divorce settlement that includes such terms.

Acknowledging how a pet could affect your divorce proceedings will help you prevent disagreements from derailing your divorce negotiations.