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Equitable Distribution, Family Law

Dividing Pets in Family Law

Dividing Pets in Family Law

By Jeff J. Horn – Divorce Attorney

Dividing Pets in Family Law

After addressing children issues, dividing pets and domestic animals is the next most painful divorce issue.

My Experience: Pets in Equitable Distribution

Early in my practice, I agreed to facilitate the transfer of a dog from my client to the opposing client.  My offer was in all good faith. Immediately, the parties bickered over how to effect this transfer.  The husband claimed to sincerely want the dog. It turns out, he made this demand only to cause my client pain. Unwittingly, I twisted my client’s arm in order to get the whole case resolved.  In the parking lot of my office, I assisted in packaging an adorable chocolate Labrador into an airplane transportation crate.  The dog resisted, my client cried, and I felt absolutely terrible.

How Courts Handle Dividing Pets

Courts have begun to embrace the challenge of deciding the continuing ownership of pets. However, attributing child-like attributes to pets, is an overstatement of their importance in family law.  The intrinsic value of a pet to the family may far exceed the pecuniary value of personal effects and furniture otherwise housed in the family home.  Again, courts will be very reluctant to get involved in such a personal decision.  Usually, the economic value of a pet may be relatively small.  A new dog can be adopted at no cost or purchased for, perhaps, hundreds of dollars or two to three thousand dollars. However, the cost of having a trial about dividing pets will cost a great deal more.

Importance of Family Pets

Companion dogs, seeing-eye dogs, or show dogs, the dividing the pet ought to be more straightforward.  Even the most vicious divorcer should not sink to the level of depriving a visually impaired person of his/her seeing-eye dog. On the contrary, keeping the family pet with the children ought to be the next sensible priority.  Most likely, the children will suffer enough. Children should not suffer the conflict over diving pets. Again, the economic value of the pet will be outweighed by the intrinsic value of the comfort, support, and enjoyment derived from the pet.  If you find yourself fighting over dividing pets, stop and take a breath. Remember the wisdom of King Solomon. Use your best judgment to avoid paying your lawyer to fight over pets. Avoid harming children over equitable distribution of pets.

 

Related blog posts from the Horn Law Group:

Bad News from your Family Law Attorney.

Children’s Preference.

Seven Holiday Parenting Tips.

Thanks to Horn Law Group, LLC intern Noah Hilsdorf.