While divorce can be contentious on its own, when a beloved pet is at stake, things can turn downright nasty.

While New York doesn’t have as advanced pet custody laws as some states, they have been moving in the right direction. Here’s what impacts who gets the family pet:

Are pets property?

Officially, New York statute still considers animals as property to be divided during a divorce. This can seem inconceivable to someone facing the prospect of losing a beloved dog or cat forever.

Luckily, the view of pets as property has shifted quite a bit in recent years. New laws in Illinois, Alaska and California have made states reassess animal custody. New York judges are starting to take animal welfare into consideration in divorces.

Here are a couple factors that courts will take into account when determining custody of your pets:

  • Who purchased the animal
  • Who provided the majority of care
  • If you’ve already separated, who the animal has lived with
  • If you have children, the structure of any custody plan
  • Was the animal purchased before the marriage

The judge will try to establish who has the most impact in your animal’s life. If one person clearly establishes a routine of pet care, it’s more likely the animal will go to him or her.

Fighting for your family

By making a case for your participation in the animal’s wellbeing, you give yourself a better chance of keeping your beloved pet. The more you can demonstrate you cared for the animal, the better off your case will be.

If you are considering a divorce and worried about losing your pet, a skilled family law attorney can be an invaluable resource. They can help you demonstrate ownership and create the best possible case for your pet.