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Attorney Carrie Wilcox

What happens with your beloved pets during a difficult divorce?

| May 22, 2021 | Divorce, Annulment And Separation

When you have children, adding a pet to the family can give you the joy of watching your child fall in love with an animal and witnessing the bond they build. If you don’t have children, your pet might be a focal point in your family unit.

Regardless of who else is part of your family, you want to maintain that bond with your beloved animal when you and your spouse call it quits. In many families, concerns about what happens to a pet can be nearly as pressing as worries about child custody outcomes. What can you expect the court to do with your pets in an Arizona divorce?

Animals are just personal property under Arizona law

The more pets you have had in your life, the more you understand that animals have distinct personalities and are as unique as individual humans. Unfortunately, the law in Arizona does not recognize pets as independent beings but rather as the possessions of people.

In a divorce, a judge will treat a pet like personal property if you have to litigate. Since they can’t divide a dog, the judge will instead have to look at family circumstances including how long you have had the animal, who paid for their upkeep and who is capable of caring for the pet to determine who gets to keep them. Judges will not set shared custody arrangements for pets.

You can agree to share custody

Just because the judge won’t establish a custody schedule for your pet, that doesn’t mean you have to give up being part of their life. If you and your spouse can negotiate your own terms for divorce, a judge will likely sign off on an agreement that allows you to share the animal.

Alternately, couples drafting prenuptial and postnuptial agreements who include provisions about their pets can expect the courts to enforce those agreements in most cases because couples have the right to determine your own property division settlement.

Divorcing with a pet can be particularly emotional, so looking at your options can help you decide what approach to divorce will help you secure the outcome you want.