What Will Happen to Our Dogs in the Divorce?
Updated: Jun 26, 2020
Let's face it, our pets are members of our family. So it's natural to wonder who will get "custody" of your pets in a divorce. Unfortunately, the law views pets as "property" in Colorado, which can have big impacts on your best strategy in a divorce case.
How to Get Custody of Your Pets in a Divorce.
If you go to a judge, the judge will give your pet to one party. If you come to an agreement, you can set up a visitation schedule.
How Will a Judge Decide? As I mentioned above, Colorado law views pets as "property." This means if you take the issue of pet ownership to a judge, the judge will give your pet to one of the parties. End of story. The judge will not issue visitation orders.
Since pets are "property" under the law, the judge will want answers to the following questions:
Was the pet adopted before the marriage? If it was, it goes to the party who adopted it.
Was the pet a gift to one spouse during the marriage? If it was, it goes to the party who received it.
Was the pet inherited by one spouse during the marriage? If it was, it goes to the party who received the inheritance.
Was the pet adoped during the marriage? If so, the judge can give the pet to either party. The following factors may influence this decision:
The contribution of each party (financial and otherwise) to adopting and caring for the pet; and
The economic circumstances of each party at the time of the divorce (e.g., is one party getting more of the marital estate and who is financially able to care for the pet).
How to Get a Visitation Schedule. Remember, if the parties are able to settle, they can come up with a visitation schedule for their pets and a judge will likely approve it. Keep in mind that your relationship with the other party may change over time. What happens when that person gets a new significant other? What happens if one of you moves out of the area? Pet visitation schedules are not modifiable by the court in the same way child visitation schedules are. If you are able to settle on a pet visitation schedule, consider building in language that says the parties will enter binding arbitration if a disagreement arises in the future.
Alternatively, if you are awarded a pet outright in your divorce, you can allow your ex to spend time with your pet. Under this scenario, you would be permitted to alter or cease pet visitation at will. So if things change and you no longer want to grant your ex pet custody, you could unilaterally terminate their visitation.