In the United States, roughly 85 million families own a pet. Almost all of these families would agree that their furry friends, whether they be a dog or a cat, are very important companions in their lives. They love them like family.

However, what happens to these beloved pets if the spouses who own them file for divorce?

What will happen to family pets in a divorce?

There is no straightforward answer to this question.

Generally, if spouses make their own agreement in mediation or a collaborative divorce, they have control over:

  • Deciding who will keep the pet; or
  • Determining how they will share ownership of the pet.

However, if spouses cannot agree on this matter, Kentucky family courts will determine who keeps ownership of the pet under equitable distribution guidelines.

This complex issue lacks regulation since courts see pets as only property. On top of that, it seems that more couples than ever before cannot agree on what to do with their pets, leading to serious disputes.

More divorcing spouses feuding over pets

According to the Pew Research Center, pets have become the center point of increasing contention between spouses facing a divorce. The most recent survey, conducted in 2014, found that there was a 22% increase in divorce cases involving disputes over pets.

There are a few reasons that could explain the spike in arguments, including:

  1. Emotional attachment: No one really sees their pets as property. They are a living companion and friend. Losing such companionship can be stressful and even devastating. The attachment that individuals have for their pets often fuels their fight to keep their pets in the event of a divorce.
  2. The idea of pet custody: Because individuals do not see their pets as property, many couples wish to divide ownership of the pet almost as they would decide custody of human children. So far only Alaska, Illinois and California have laws detailing pet custody arrangements in divorce cases. These laws were in response to the rise in disputes over pets in divorce, but they are also prompting lawmakers in other states to consider such laws. The idea of these laws is also a major factor influencing spouses to seek custody and ownership of pets.

These emotional and legal concerns are only some of the factors driving these disputes between spouses across the country. It can become even more complex when family courts and the legal system do not have particular guidelines that families can follow when making such a stressful decision. However, an experienced family law attorney can help navigate the complicated aspects of divorce, such as this.

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