Deciding who gets the family pet(s) in a divorce can be a difficult decision

Divorce and Pets: Who Gets the Dog?

If you’re going through a divorce or contemplating filing for divorce, one of the questions you may have is, “what will happen to my pets?”  Pets are part of the family, and it often matters a great deal where and with whom our furry friends will reside.

In Connecticut, there are no legal provisions that specifically address pets, and as cold as it may sound, pets are considered “personal property” under Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46b-81 to typically be divided by agreement of the parties.  The hope is that the parties can reach an amicable agreement on their own regarding pets, but, like other personal property, if the parties are unable to reach an agreement, the court will decide who will get possession of the pet(s).

There can be a great deal of variation in the amount of evidence judges are willing to consider regarding the placement of pets.  Some judges are inclined to allow the parties to testify about their relationship with the pet, and in the case of multiple pets, the pets’ relationships with each other, while others are less inclined to go into such depth.  Judges also vary in their opinion of with whom the pets shall live.  Some judges believe pets can be split such that each party receives a pet, while other judges believe that pets that are raised together should stay together.  One thing the Judges universally agree upon—is that they hate having to make these decisions because they know the pain involved and that fairness is elusive.

In a recent Hartford County case, one of our attorneys fought relentlessly for a client who wanted her beloved dogs to stay together and with her after the divorce. Despite many attempts at negotiation, the parties could not agree on the placement of the dogs, and our attorney requested and was granted a hearing on the sole issue of the placement of the dogs.  Our attorney called both her client and the opposing party to the stand and introduced evidence in the form of photographs, both of the dogs together, and of the living arrangements of the opposing party.  Based on the emotional and sincere testimony our attorney was able to elicit from her client and the evidence that was introduced at the hearing, a tearful victory was reached when the Judge ordered that the dogs stay together with our client.  To be frank, we have been on the other side of a ruling wherein our client was heartbroken.  In several other cases, the Judge ruled that the pets would follow the children. That is, possession of the dog would coincide with custody of the children.  For this solution to work, it is necessary to consider the ages of the children and the pet. Who gets possession of the pet when the children leave the nest?  Also, notice the terminology “possession” (dog) is different from “custody” (children).  This is because pets are property, and the custody terminology is inapplicable.

If there are pets in your family and you are concerned about their placement, we will negotiate and, if necessary, litigate to the fullest extent to achieve a result that keeps your pets safe and sound—and living where and with whom you wish.

To learn more about divorce or to schedule an appointment, contact us today by calling one of our offices located in Hartford (860) 266-1166, New Canaan (203) 344-7007, or by completing our online form.  We also have offices in New Haven, Stamford, and Niantic by appointment only.  Find Peace Through Strength!

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