Many New Yorkers refer to their pets as their ‘fur babies’ and consider them to be just as much a part of the family as any human being. In the past, however, New York courts were required to treat pets as personal property, meaning that the pet essentially became part of the estate along with your furniture, bank accounts and other assets, and would be given to one party or the other during the equitable distribution process.
Fortunately, as of 2018, New York courts are no longer required to treat pets as property during a divorce and are instead required to use a ‘best for all concerned standard’ when determining pet custody.
What is the ‘best for all concerned’ standard?
The court will consider a number of factors when determining the ‘best for all concerned’ in a pet custody case. It is important to note that the ‘best for all concerned’ standard is not the same as the ‘best interest of the child’ standard used to determine child custody cases, and that pets are not treated the same as children under New York law.
Some of the factors courts will consider when determining who will keep the couple’s pet include:
- Who registered the pet?
- Who was primarily responsible for caring for the pet during the relationship?
- Who spends the most time with the pet?
- Whose living environment would be better for the pet?
- What kind of care is required?
- Who is listed as the owner on veterinary records and/or takes the pet to the vet?
- Who (if anyone) microchipped the pet?
- If the couple has children, what is the children’s relationship with the pet?
Pet custody battles can be just as emotionally draining as many of the other aspects of a divorce. A family law attorney in your area can help you and your ex handle these issues civilly and come up with a plan that works well for your family.