But what about the dog?

If you’re a pet owner, it is likely that you consider your “pet” too much more than just a “pet” but a member of your family. For many years when it came to divorce and pets, courts were bound by the law and pets were considered as just another piece of property to be divided between divorcing couples. However, in accordance with DRL § 236(B)(5)(d), Courts are now required to consider the best interests of a companion animal (a companion animal is also referred to as a pet or domestic animal).

So, what happens to your beloved pet if you’re going through a divorce? New York courts may take into consideration the following factors (which is not exhaustive) in order to determine the “best interests” of a companion animal:

  • Who was the primary caregiver of the animal? Essentially who was responsible for feeding, walking, grooming and take care of the animal’s medical needs.
  • What living arrangement is in the animal’s best interests?
  • Is shared custody a possibility?
  • Are other animals involved? If so, should all the animals be together in one household?
  • Was either party found to have committed acts of domestic violence against anyone in the household, including the animals?
  • The animal’s well-being and the parties’ resources, and physical ability to care for the animal.
  • The relationship between the animal and each owner.
  • Each owner’s ability to care for and spend time with the animal.
  • A court can also review the child custody arrangement in the event there are also children.

There is no doubt that pet custody disputes can be as contentious as disputes over children. We now have a provision of the law which recognizes that pets should not be treated as just another asset to be sold, like a car or a dining room set, but the “best interests” standard must be taken into consideration.

The material in this blog is meant only to provide general information and is not a substitute nor is it legal advice to you. In the event you need legal assistance, please contact Hanna Kirkpatrick or Mariselle R. Harrison at 516-746-8000 or via email at hkirkpatrick@jaspanllp.com or mharrison@jaspanllp.com.