How is the Custody of Pets Determined in a Divorce?
For the most part while pets are often members of the family just like children and for some are children, they are not. They are property and so they are divided just like any other property is. However, there are differences in judges and judges feel differently about this issue. In fact recently I was at a 'meet the judges' meeting of the Maricopa County Bar Association and one of the judges was talking about her dog. She considers that her dog is a member of her family. If you happen to be in front of a judge that feels that way, it's not going to be treated the same way as just your lamp or your dining room table. Some judges will be inclined to create parenting time and parties will exchange the animal on a rotating basis based on what criteria they used to make a determination or what the court will order. Other judges will not entertain that. In fact, they will say sell the pet if you can't agree on it. That's not really a viable option if your pet has become a member of your family. It will depend on your judge and it will depend on the parties' ability to either work it out or the need for the court to make a decision. The court may treat your pet just like it is property and dispose of it just like the dining room table.
About the author: Jason B. Castle is a Partner at the Phoenix law firm of Jaburg Wilk. He is the President of the Arizona Chapter of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, member of the State Bar of Arizona, and a member of the Maricopa County Bar Association, where he chaired the Family Law Section and Legislative Committee. He has expertise in child custody and Decision Making Authority. More recently he was named a Southwest Super Lawyer Rising Star.