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Who gets the pets in a New York divorce?

Divorces can be an extremely difficult time. However, things can become ever more complicated when pets are involved.

Animals can play an important role in a family’s life. It is not uncommon for a couple to engage in a dispute over who has custody of the pet. However, New York’s laws can be vague when it comes to determining pet custody and visitation after a divorce.

Unfortunately, in New York, courts still consider pets as property. As a result, courts will award animals to either spouse like a house, car or other personal property items that can be divided in a divorce. Unlike child custody, pets are not awarded based on what is in the best interest of the animal.

A few other states have adopted pet standards that reflect child custody laws, including California, Alaska and Illinois. In these states, the “best interest of the animal” factors typically include:

  • Who feeds the animal?
  • Who walks the animal?
  • Who takes the animal to the vet?
  • Who is responsible for the overall care of the animal?
  • Are there any pet laws at either party’s residence?

However, New York law still remains the same at this time. Therefore, a court cannot award custody or visitation time to an animal. Generally, awards are given based on the spouse who purchased the pet. If one spouse is awarded the pet, it is up to him or her to allow the other spouse visitation. However, that will not likely be established by the court in New York.

New York divorces can be extremely complex, especially if there are disputes over pets. It can be beneficial to consult with an experienced divorce and family law attorney to discuss your options.

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