Experience. Knowledge. Dedication. Aggressive Advocacy On Your Side SCHEDULE A CONSULTATION

Who Gets the Pets in a Divorce?

Douglas A. Ball Attorney at Law Nov. 7, 2023

A man shares a house with his palm with images of property, children and petsThere’s almost no aspect of your life that isn’t disrupted during the process of a divorce. When two lives have been intertwined in a marriage and now need to come apart, you’ll be tasked with dividing everything you own. This includes making difficult decisions such as who gets to keep the house, car, or other assets, deciding whether any alimony will be paid, not to mention agreeing on a child custody or child support arrangement if you have kids. 

Along these lines, what many people worry over when getting a divorce is who will get custody of the pets after the separation. For many people, pets are just as much a part of the family as anyone else and figuring out who they’ll live with can be a difficult and heartbreaking process. To learn more about this process or for help with any of your divorce needs, call Douglas A. Ball Attorney at Law today. From his home office in Batavia, Ohio, Attorney Ball is able to represent clients throughout Batavia County, Clermont County, Hamilton County, Brown County, and Warren County.  

Pets and Divorce in Ohio  

One question that comes up over and over again when two spouses separate is, “Who gets to keep the pets in a divorce?” Although pets are often treated like one of the family, under Ohio law, pets are considered personal property and will be treated as such during a separation. This means that like other assets that need to be divided, pets like dogs and cats (or even livestock) will also be addressed in the same way, as there is no official “pet custody” law. 

This can understandably be a difficult pill to swallow for many pet owners who feel as connected and protective of their animals as they would a child. There are some states, like New York, Alaska, and Illinois, that have passed laws that treat determining who gets custody of the pets in much the same way for a child. But so far, Ohio has not gone in this direction. Because of this getting the support of a divorce attorney can help advocate for you in and out of court, with the goal that your best interests are protected, including keeping your pet.  

Marital vs. Separate Property 

Because the family cat or dog (or other animal) is considered property in the eyes of the law, this is how the judge will look at it should you need court intervention. To understand how this will work, you’ll need to know how property division works in Ohio and specifically the difference between marital property and separate property.  

Marital property refers to any property or assets that are acquired after you are married. In most cases, property is still considered “marital” even if only one spouse bought or earned it. For example, most income earned during a marriage is categorized as marital property even though only one spouse worked for it. There are cases, however, in which assets like inheritance or profits earned on an investment can be considered “separate” even if they were acquired during the marriage. 

Separate property refers to any assets that were obtained before the marriage began or in some cases after the marriage, though this is rare. Examples of separate property also include gifts that you received that were only intended for you, assets you obtained after a legal separation, or income received from a rental property that you purchased before your marriage. 

Factors the Court Will Consider  

Ohio is also considered an equitable distribution state, which means that marital property isn’t always divided exactly 50/50 and is instead divided fairly. When deciding who should get the family pet, a judge will consider several factors: 

  • who originally purchased the pet 

  • who was mainly responsible (both in their daily tasks and financially) for its care and upkeep 

  • whether each spouse actually wants the pet 

  • how well each spouse would be able to care for the pet 

  • whether either spouse’s work schedule would interfere with their ability to care for a pet 

Ultimately, the goal is to promote the best interests of both the pet and the owner, avoiding situations where it might be placed in an environment that could negatively impact its health or well-being. As a result, the court's decision on pet custody in Ohio strives to ensure that the pet can continue to receive the love and care it deserves while accommodating the circumstances of the divorcing spouses. 

Working Out a Settlement Agreement  

If you can’t work out an agreement with your spouse, the best thing you can do is hire a family law attorney to help. Oftentimes, a lawyer can act as a mediator to help the couple have productive conversations and eventually come to an agreement on their own. This will almost always be faster and less expensive than asking the courts to step in.  

Sole or Joint Ownership  

You have two main options for ownership: sole and joint. If you decide on sole ownership, this means one partner will be the main caretaker of the pet, and depending on your agreement, the other partner may be granted visitation time. If you decide on joint ownership, you will have to divide the time the pet spends with each partner as much as you would a child.  

Your Pets Are Important. Learn Your Rights to Ownership.

If you’d like to sit down with an experienced divorce attorney in Ohio to talk about your questions and concerns about how to decide custody of pets, contact Douglas A. Ball Attorney at Law in Batavia, Ohio. With Attorney Ball’s assistance, you can work toward a resolution that prioritizes the well-being and care of your cherished pet while addressing any legal complexities that may arise during the divorce process. Don’t face it alone, and reach out now.