When preparing for a divorce, many people naturally begin to think about what matters most. If you had to decide, would you give up other assets in order to keep the family home? Are you going to need financial support after your divorce? What custody rights do you want with regard to your children?
Do you want to make sure you keep custody of your pets?
For many people, making sure they get to keep their pets is a top priority as well. This is entirely understandable, and you are not alone if caring for your pets is among the most important issues that come to mind.
Ohio Law Treats Pets as Personal Property
No matter how much our pets feel like family, under the law, they are still considered personal property. This means that, technically, pets are subject to equitable distribution just like the other assets you and your spouse shared during your marriage.
Of course, as a practical matter, the emotional connection we share with our pets makes them very different animals (no pun intended) when it comes to getting divorced.
Methods for Determining Pet Ownership and “Custody” Following a Divorce
1. What Does Your Prenuptial Agreement Say about Pets?
If you and your spouse (or then-fiancé) signed a prenuptial agreement, you will want to have your attorney review your agreement to see what it says about pet ownership in the event of a divorce. The use of so-called “pet prenups” has been on the rise, and it is entirely possible that your prenuptial agreement states what will happen to your pets in your divorce.
However, before putting too much stock in the terms of your prenuptial agreement, you should also have your attorney review the agreement to make sure that it is likely to hold up in court. There are a number of issues that can render a prenuptial agreement unenforceable, and if you or your spouse has grounds to dispute the validity of your agreement, this is the first issue you will need to get resolved.
2. Negotiation, Mediation, or Collaborative Law
If you do not have a valid “pet prenup,” then you and your spouse will most likely resolve pet ownership issues through either informal negotiations, mediation, or the collaborative law process. While a matter of ownership, in many cases spouses will work out what essentially amount to custody and visitation rights with regard to their pets. A marital settlement agreement can even include provisions for financial support for pet-related care and expenses.
If you and your spouse are willing to discuss ownership of your pets and work together to achieve an amicable resolution (and if either of you are willing to give up other property in order to keep your pet), then one of these three methods may be best for you.
3. Turning to the Court for a Resolution
However, if you and your spouse are unable to come to terms amicably, then you may need to turn to the divorce court for a resolution. When deciding which spouse should get to keep a family pet in a divorce, the Ohio courts consider factors such as:
- Which spouse took primary responsibility for the pet’s daily needs?
- Which spouse purchased food for the pet?
- Which spouse took the pet to the veterinarian?
- Will both spouses have the financial means to provide for the pet’s needs after the divorce?
- Has either spouse abused or neglected the pet in the past?
- Has one spouse bonded with the pet more than the other?
- What living conditions will each spouse be able to provide for the pet after the divorce?
As with child custody and other aspects of your divorce, when it comes to pet ownership, planning ahead can often help put you in a stronger position to fight for the rights you desire. Contact us to learn more.
Laubacher & Co. | Experienced Divorce Lawyers in Cleveland, OH
If you would like to speak with an attorney about what you can do to help make sure you keep your pet after your divorce, contact Laubacher & Co. today for a free, confidential consultation. Evening and weekend appointments are available. Call our Cleveland, OH law offices at (855) 701-1004 or send us a message online and one of our attorneys will be happy to speak with you as soon as possible.