Who gets to keep the pet after a divorce in Massachusetts?

pet with owner

When divorcing, serious questions about a pet’s ownership arise as couples often dispute custody of the pet. For many married couples, pets are considered irreplaceable members of the family. This makes pet custody a hotly contested issue. Many couples fail to realize that pets are considered personal property and therefore can be subject to equitable distribution. Therefore, this means one spouse will be awarded the pet while the other must part ways with them forever. To improve your chances of being able to keep your pet, please contact a dedicated Bristol County Division of Assets and Debts Lawyer who can help you navigate this complex legal process. 

Is my pet subject to equitable distribution in Massachusetts in a divorce?

In some states, there are specific pet custody laws enforced whereby the courts have to consider the pet’s best interests when determining who gets to keep the pet. Essentially, in these states, pets are not viewed as personal property, and custody is handled similarly to child custody. However, that is not the case in Massachusetts. Although you may see your pet as a beloved family member, the courts view your pet as personal property. That being said, legally, since pets are considered property, there are no custody or visitation rights involved. This means the pet will be distributed to one or the other party, as it cannot be shared.

If you bought the pet together, the pet will be considered marital property. Marital property is any assets accumulated during the marriage. Marital property is subject to equitable distribution. This means the pet will be distributed to one spouse. If the pet was bought outside of the marriage, it is considered separate property and therefore not subject to equitable distribution. In this case, whoever purchased the pet will keep the pet. However, this issue can be resolved outside of court. If you want to keep the family pet after a divorce, you will need to get the other party to agree to it. Moreover, you may be able to keep the pet if you established in a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement that in the event of a divorce, you will keep the family pet. If your former spouse does not agree to you keeping the family pet, you will have to convince the court that you should be awarded custody of your pet.

If you do not want to lose custody of your pet, it is in your best interest to retain a skilled lawyer from The Law Offices of Cynthia L. Hanley, P.C. Our firm is prepared to help you protect your hard-earned assets during property distribution. Allow our firm to represent your interests today to achieve favorable results.