Americans own approximately 75 million cats and 70 million dogs. For over 60 percent of dog owners, their furry companion is a part of the family. What happens, then, when a couple divorces? How does the court decide who will take custody of the pet(s)?

Pets are treated as property in a divorce and while that may seem a bit cruel, the court lacks the authority to create a visitation schedule or tell either of you who would give Fido a better home.

Courts decide who gets to keep the pet by looking at who first acquired the pet, who took the pet to the vet, who exercised it and who got it groomed. This is probably the closed the courts will come to determining who is better suited for taking care of the pet.

If one party has a health condition that makes it difficult to care for the animal, that too could be considered. It could be something as simple as an allergy to dander or as important as being unable to walk the dog. If one party depends on the dog as a part of his or her therapy, that could also be considered.

When you adopt or buy a pet, you’ll receive paperwork on it in most cases. Keep the paperwork because it could show that you owned the pet before you got married.

The courts really don’t want to rule on who gets the dog and cat. It’s best if the two of you can create an agreement that meets the needs of both of you. This can also save you a lot of time and money. An attorney can help you draft an agreement to present to the court.

Source: wtop.com, “Pets & Divorce,” Daniel B. Schy, Nov. 03, 2016