pet custody battles in Auburn, Alabama

Pet Custody Battles in a Divorce

Divorce often feels like one loss after another—the loss of your relationship, time with your children, financial stability, and even pets. You may have seen tales of shared pet custody on social media and wondered if that’s an option for your split. Learn more about what Alabama says about pet ownership and what your options are during a divorce.

Wherever you are in the divorce process, it’s crucial to have dependable legal representation. The team at Haygood, Cleveland, Pierce, Thompson & Short is ready to learn more about your divorce and give you personalized advice. Call us at 334-281-3892 to schedule a consultation now.

Pets: Kids or Property?

Each state handles divorce laws slightly differently, and the handling of pets is one of the key differences between states. Some states, such as Texas and Alaska, allow the court to create custody agreements for pets. This allows divorcing couples to retain ownership of their beloved pets without having to rely on the other party’s goodwill.

Unfortunately, Alabama is not one of those states. Most states still recognize pets as physical property, closer to an antique or home than to children. This means that one party or the other gets the pet, and no custody agreements are created or honored.

Your Options During Divorce

What does this mean for you? First, you have to assess what both parties want. If only one party wants the pet, that’s perfect. They can simply keep the pet and move on to the division of the rest of the property. If both parties want the pet, that is considerably harder. It’s better to work out this kind of conflict during negotiations, rather than leaving it to the court to decide. Once a decision is in the court’s hands, it is legally binding. Even if neither party is happy with the outcome, you must abide by it.

If keeping your pet is one of your top priorities during divorce, be aware that you may need to compromise to keep them. It’s likely that your ex-partner already knows of your devotion to your pet, and if they’re willing to be vindictive or fight dirty, they may be willing to use it against you. Expect to see them demand an unfair share of the marital assets, threaten to drag the divorce on longer than necessary if you won’t give in, or fight to the bitter end for the pet—even if they don’t really want to keep them.

Talk to your Auburn divorce attorney if you anticipate a battle over ownership of your pet. You may want to spend some time thinking about what you’re willing to give up in order to keep your companion and what is too much for you. Should negotiations be unsuccessful, you may be able to prove that you deserve the pet in court.

You and your ex-partner may also agree for one person to keep the pet legally but share visits and ownership. Keep in mind, though, that this is not legally enforceable. If your ex-partner takes ownership of the pet and cuts you off, you have few to no legal options.

Proving Pet Ownership

When negotiations do not successfully lead to a divorce settlement, final decisions lie with the judge. If your case comes to this, you may want to prove that you truly deserve ownership of your pet. You can do this by proving that you have been the pet’s primary caretaker, that you pay for their vet visits and take them to vet visits, and that you’re more acquainted with their daily needs than your ex-partner.

Local veterinarians, such as Auburn University Veterinary Clinic and PetVet Animal Health Center, are generally more than willing to provide documentation of vet visits and other care needs. These may show that you have faithfully taken your pet to every appointment, paid for their medication, and ensured that their shots are up to date. This can be very helpful during a divorce.

If you owned the pet prior to the marriage, that’s another argument that may work. In that case, the pet may be considered separate property instead of marital property.

Plan Your Divorce with Haygood, Cleveland, Pierce, Thompson & Short

The thought of losing a pet is a painful one, but the team at Haygood, Cleveland, Pierce, Thompson & Short is ready to help you pursue full ownership. Every divorce is different, and we’re ready to listen to what matters to you and negotiate accordingly. Contact us online or call us at 334-821-3892 to set up a meeting.

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