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Pet Custody in an Ohio Divorce

All states have child custody laws in place for when couples divorce. However, these laws don’t always apply, as not everyone has kids. But a growing number of couples have pets, such as dogs and cats. So what happens when they divorce? Are there custody laws that apply?

For the most part, no. Only California, Illinois, and Alaska have pet custody laws in place. Ohio and all other states consider pets to be property. In a divorce, they are split like furniture, jewelry, and other assets. So who gets to keep Fido or Fluffy in a divorce?

Well, it’s complicated. You may view your beloved pet as a member of the family, but the law says otherwise. Ohio is an equitable distribution state, but that doesn’t make the process easier.  Fortunately, there are options, if you and your spouse can come to an agreement. 

Is the Pet Marital Property?

First things first—when did you acquire the pet? If you owned the pet before you got married, then the pet will remain yours after a divorce. That’s how property laws work in Ohio. Separate property is not divided in a divorce.

Who Gets the Pet?

You acquired your dog or cat during the marriage, so who gets to keep them? Judges try not to rule on pet matters, but they will often make decisions based on the best interests of the animal. They may make decisions based on factors such as:

  • Who has been primarily responsible for the pet’s care (feeding, grooming, vet visits, etc.)?
  • Who has spent more time with the animal?
  • Who bought the pet? Are there any names on ownership papers?
  • After the divorce, who will be able to give the pet the best care?
  • Will one or both spouses have sufficient room in their homes to care for the pet?
  • Is there a child who is attached to the pet?
  • Does either spouse have a history of animal abuse?

Work Out an Agreement on Your Own

You don’t have to have a judge make a decision about the custody of your pet. In fact, it’s better if you and your spouse can come to an agreement on your own. You two know the pet better than anyone else. Where should the pet live? Who should have custody? Can you come to an agreement on shared custody? If so, it’s a lot better than taking the case to court. If you two cannot agree, consider mediation. 

Contact Us Today

Each state has laws for child custody in a divorce, but when it comes to pets, Ohio and most other states fall short. If you divorce while owning cats, dogs, or other pets, what will happen to them?

Can you and your spouse reach an agreement on your own? If not, seek legal help from the Columbus divorce lawyers at Lawrence Law Office. We can give you the right advice. Schedule a consultation today by filling out the online form or by calling 614-228-3664.

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