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What happens to the family pet during divorce?

On Behalf of | Oct 6, 2021 | Family Law |

It is not uncommon for divorcing couples to fight over things like the family house, property and child custody when a marriage breaks down. Missouri couples are increasingly bringing another issue to the table during divorce — pets. While animals might not have been a huge point of contention during the past, they are more frequently becoming the center of divorce battles. 

Property or part of the family? 

While most people consider their four-legged friends to be members of the family, pets are still considered property under Missouri state law. This means that there is no pet custody procedure that pet parents can follow. Instead, dogs are routinely lumped into the property division process alongside assets like the house, vehicles and furniture. This can be difficult for people who truly consider their pets to be family. 

Working on pet custody 

Although pet custody is not a standard part of divorce, divorcing couples can still reach an agreement on this matter on their own. This arrangement is generally worked out between two people and not in front of a judge, as there is no guarantee that the judge overseeing a case will be particularly sympathetic toward animals. A few things couples might want to take into account when creating a pet custody agreement include: 

  • If the agreement should mirror the child custody agreement 
  • Who financially provided for the pet 
  • Who was the pet’s primary caretaker 

While many pet parents in Missouri can work together to create the best possible pet custody agreement, some encounter a few challenges along the way. It is unfortunately not unheard of for one partner to use the animal as a bargaining chip to get his or her way during a divorce. When this happens, it is often worthwhile to seek the guidance of a knowledgeable attorney.