Divorces have the potential to be complex, emotional affairs. The addition of a beloved pet into the mix can increase any tensions considerably.
The preference is for the divorcing couple to come to an arrangement on their own. However, in the case that they cannot amicably decide on ownership, Connecticut law considers pets personal property, subject to division. While they have great personal discretion, there are certain factors judges are more likely to consider when deciding who gets the family pet.
1. Primary carer
Judges might look at which spouse primarily took care of the pet, performing duties like giving it food, walks and medical care. Many judges aim to place pets in an environment where they are most likely to receive proper emotional and physical care. The spouse who took care of the pet during the marriage is more likely to take proper care of it after the union’s end.
2. Children’s attachment
If there are children involved in the divorce, children may also take into account any attachment they have. Children often form strong bonds with family pets, and disrupting this connection can have a significant impact on the emotional stability of both the children and the pets. Courts may consider the impact of pet custody on the children’s overall adjustment to the divorce.
3. Financial ability
Another potential consideration is if an individual has the financial means to care for a pet on his or her own. Pets come with many expenses, including food, grooming and veterinary care. The spouse who can demonstrate the ability to meet these financial responsibilities might have a stronger case for pet custody.
According to the Pew Research Center, 97% of pet owners see their pets as family members. It can be difficult to let go of a beloved companion, which makes the fight over the family pet even more painful when a couple cannot reach an agreement. The state has no provisions for pets as anything other than property, so judges have a great deal of leeway in deciding who gets to keep them. While they may use whatever criteria they choose, they are more likely to focus on what situation will be in the best interests of the pet and any children involved.