Pets and Divorce Law in Arizona

pets and divorce lawWhen you are going through a divorce, some of the main things that need to be resolved are issues of asset distribution, child custody and visitation, child support payments, and more. This whole process can be overwhelming, and many people forget about one other important thing.

Who gets the pets in the aftermath of a divorce?

While this issue may seem to pale in comparison to the other important issues in a divorce, pets become parts of the family. Many people commonly refer to pets as their “other children.” It should come as no surprise, then, that who gets the pets is an issue that needs to be discussed seriously.

Many households have pets

According to the Insurance Information Institute, over 68% of all US households have pets. That is around 85 million families. The most commonly owned animals include:

  • Dogs
  • Cats
  • Freshwater fish
  • Birds
  • Small animals
  • Reptiles
  • Horses
  • Saltwater fish

With millions of households with pets, it is inevitable that there will be issues that come up when a divorce occurs. In Arizona, pets are legally viewed as property, much like vehicles and furniture are (don’t shoot the messenger).

Because pets are considered property in an Arizona divorce process, that means that they must be divided equally between the two parties upon the dissolution of a marriage, along with all of the other property. In reality, this is complicated. This means that the judge can order that the pets will belong to one spouse or the other.

Even though the courts do not give the same legal attention to pets as they do children, they may take into consideration the well-being of the child (if there is one involved) relating to the pets. For example, the pets may be awarded to the spouse who has the greatest amount of child custody time.

It may be more beneficial for both separating spouses to come to a mutual agreement that does not involve the court. By working outside the court, the spouses may be in a better position to make a plan that works best for all parties involved, including any children. It is not uncommon for divorcing spouses to have a “pet agreement.” This agreement can include:

  • Who will retain ownership of the pet
  • Visitation rights if desired
  • Financial responsibility for the pet
  • Medical decisions and expenses related to the pet

An out-of-court agreement could give the separating spouses more flexibility than they would get in the court. You could even consider using a third-party mediator to help resolve pet issues during the divorce. A mediator will keep this issue out of the courtroom.

Click here to find out about inheritance and divorce in Arizona.

Of course, there are other matters at hand

As we briefly mentioned above, there is a range of issues that need to be decided during the divorce that can all become complicated. Please understand that all of the following need to be resolved before a divorce can be finalized:

  • How all marital property will be equitably distributed (assets and debts)
  • Child custody and visitation agreements for all children involved
  • Child support payments for all children involved
  • Spousal maintenance payments if necessary

What you need to do

Whether your divorce includes pets or not, you should secure assistance from a knowledgeable and experienced Arizona divorce attorney who can walk you through this entire process. You need to be sure you are protected every step of the way. Divorce is an emotional process, and those emotions could cloud your judgment when it comes to making many of these important decisions. An attorney will work to obtain the best outcome for you.

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