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What happens to pets in a divorce?

For many, getting married and starting a life with someone includes adding a pet into the family. Regardless of the type of pet, animals can make incredible companions, and while your spouse may take good care of your pet, you do not want to lose the company of your favorite friend.

In addition to an emotional connection, some pets have significant financial value, as well. However, this discussion does not include livestock, or farm animals.

Here's what you should know about pet custody in Colorado and how it could impact your divorce.

Pets Are Property in the Eyes of the Court

Pet ownership often involves significant responsibility for daily care, feeding, grooming and the like. There may be great emotional attachment and some people consider pets to be members of the family. Nevertheless, the question of which party gets to keep the pet is not treated in the same fashion as deciding who gets custody of a child.

Although there are a few states that recognize pets as something more than mere property, Colorado is not one of them. When Colorado courts decide who will get to keep your family pets, they will view them as any other tangible asset in the divorce.

Mine versus yours

Deciding who will get the pets will start with looking at when it was acquired. A dog you have owned since college will remain yours, even though your spouse may have also fed it, played with it and otherwise formed a bond. By contrast the dog you both selected from the animal shelter during the marriage could go to either of you.

Of course, if spouses can agree that one person should have the pet, the courts will typically allow the pet to go to the person who wants it.

Agree to share

Many pet owners see themselves as parents of fur-children and approach custody of pets from that perspective. With child custody, courts consider what is in the child's best interest; pets, however, do not get the same treatment in Colorado.

  • If you and your spouse can agree on a custody arrangement, you can adopt a plan for who sees the pet and when. However, keep in mind that a lot of detail may need to be covered. who has to pay for vet care?
  • Who decides how far you go if the vet care will be very expensive?
  • How are responsibilities allocated for food, exercise, grooming, etc.?

Deciding who will keep a pet can be a complex and emotional decision. While you are considering the best for you and your pet, you should talk to an experienced attorney who can help you advocate for your situation.

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