Divorce Lawyer In WesTchester: Pets Aren’t People Too Says The Law
In today’s day and age, with “celebrity” pets and an abundance of pet social media accounts, it should come as no surprise that most people would consider their pet to be a member of the family. But, when a couple decides to divorce, the question of who gets to keep the pets often arises. Just like with real property, personal property and children, pets are now another piece of the pie. According to our divorce lawyer in Westchester County, where the laws are designed to protect the best interest of human children in a divorce, the laws for pets are intended to benefit the pet owner instead.
Technically, animals are property
Under the law, pets are considered to be personal property, and Courts working under that law only have strict authority to award a pet to one owner or the other. To grant shared custody or visitation of a pet would be exactly the same, in the eyes of the law, as having a parenting schedule over a television.
Jaclyn Zackowitz, our our divorce lawyer in Westchester, says that because pets are becoming such a big part of our lives, some courts are beginning to change the analysis, and are willing to treat pets more like children. Alaska, California and Illinois are among states that have enacted laws giving judges leeway to consider the best interests of pets, similar to what they do for children. A bill is pending in New York to take the same approach. “Someone’s cat or dog is a part of their family and should not be treated like a piece of furniture or Honda Civic,” said Sen. James Skoufis.
Shared Custody of Animals
I think it would be safe to say the majority of divorce lawyers have had the issue of custody over a pet pop up once, if not more. Typically, pet custody issues are negotiated before getting lawyers involved due to the cost and the uncertainty of the outcome at trial. It is not uncommon, however, for parties in a divorce to agree to a visitation agreement.
Whereas I’m sure we will start seeing changes in the law as to how family pets are treated, for now there are a few ways to get ahead of disputes when a divorce arises. For a couple entering into marriage, entering into a pet “pre-nup” outlining who will have custody of any existing pets, or pets acquired in the future, will ensure there is no confusion as to who will keep the pet in the divorce. The same can be drafted for a married couple who acquires a pet after marriage. Having an agreement in place before issues develop will alleviate parties using pets as bargaining chips in a divorce proceeding as well.
Inevitably, the laws surrounding pets will continue to change. If you and your spouse share a pet and have questions about who keeps the pet in a divorce, you should contact our firm, Kleyman & Associates. Our experience attorneys can offer information and guidance to help you make the best decision both for you and the welfare of your pet.
If you have any questions, please contact the Kleyman Law Firm, qualified rated top divorce lawyer in Westchester County, nyc-divorcelawyer.com.