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Custody of Our Furry Family: When Pets are Involved in Divorce Litigation

Pet Custody Issues in Connecticut

In 2011 Connecticut's Office of Legal Research sought to clarify the issue of pets in divorce litigation, but the short answer is there is no Connecticut statute or case which provides precedent on this issue. Interestingly enough, in 2007 the Connecticut Legislature did enact legislation which allows for pets to be included in protective orders related to domestic violence cases. In these cases, a judge could issue an order resulting in either a civil restraining, or a criminal protective order concerning a pet.

Connecticut law views companion animals as "chattel," or movable personal property. Based on the fact Connecticut is an equitable distribution state, it is likely that judges would consider pets to be a part of the marital estate, thus subject to equitable division during a divorce. In this analysis, the pet's best interests are not taken into account, so much as the interests of the owners.

If there are children involved, this can typically be a determining factor when deciding where the pet(s) goes. In a 2006 interview with the Hartford Courant, the Honorable Judge Thomas Colin, who at the time was chair of the Connecticut Bar Association's Family Law Section, stated generally, "pets stay in the home where children primarily live." This could mean, if the custody arrangement has the children alternating between parents each week, Lucky would be right alongside them.

Pets Are Part of the Family

Surprisingly, this becomes more of an issue when there are no children involved. In that same article, Judge Colin mentioned that pets are often treated like the children of their owners. In recent years that is very much the case. A 2011 Business Wire article highlighted some statistics put together by the dog treat company Milo's Kitchen. The numbers suggest that 81% of Americans think of their dogs as equal members of the family, while 77% admit to talking about their dogs like they were human family members. Although these results focus on dogs, this is not to say other pets are considered any less members of the family. According to Reuters, pet custody disputes have included cats, iguanas, pythons, African gray parrots and even giant turtles.

So where does that leave you? You may have an advantage if you owned the pet before entering into a relationship with the other party. However, many times this is not the case, and animal purchases are made during the relationship. Ultimately, divorcing couples can create their own settlement agreements pertaining to pets. These agreements can include anything from how the pet is to be taken care of, to stipulations that neither party may sell or abandon the pet. If a judge determines that an agreement is fair, then the judge can incorporate it as part of the final divorce decree.

Getting the Legal Representation, You Need

In the event that an agreement cannot be reached, this is when arguments over custody can be heated. This can be a very emotional and frustrating time, especially when you are concerned that your animal companion may no longer be at your side. This is why it is critical that you contact a licensed Connecticut family law attorney like the attorneys at Mariani Reck Lane, LLCto assist you with the custody of your pets. Our attorneys provide professional and experienced legal representation. Call us today at 860-443-5023 to discuss your case.

Pet Custody Issues in Connecticut

In 2011 Connecticut's Office of Legal Research sought to clarify the issue of pets in divorce litigation, but the short answer is there is no Connecticut statute or case which provides precedent on this issue. Interestingly enough, in 2007 the Connecticut Legislature did enact legislation which allows for pets to be included in protective orders related to domestic violence cases. In these cases, a judge could issue an order resulting in either a civil restraining, or a criminal protective order concerning a pet.

Connecticut law views companion animals as "chattel," or movable personal property. Based on the fact Connecticut is an equitable distribution state, it is likely that judges would consider pets to be a part of the marital estate, thus subject to equitable division during a divorce. In this analysis, the pet's best interests are not taken into account, so much as the interests of the owners.

If there are children involved, this can typically be a determining factor when deciding where the pet(s) goes. In a 2006 interview with the Hartford Courant, the Honorable Judge Thomas Colin, who at the time was chair of the Connecticut Bar Association's Family Law Section, stated generally, "pets stay in the home where children primarily live." This could mean, if the custody arrangement has the children alternating between parents each week, Lucky would be right alongside them.

Pets Are Part of the Family

Surprisingly, this becomes more of an issue when there are no children involved. In that same article, Judge Colin mentioned that pets are often treated like the children of their owners. In recent years that is very much the case. A 2011 Business Wire article highlighted some statistics put together by the dog treat company Milo's Kitchen. The numbers suggest that 81% of Americans think of their dogs as equal members of the family, while 77% admit to talking about their dogs like they were human family members. Although these results focus on dogs, this is not to say other pets are considered any less members of the family. According to Reuters, pet custody disputes have included cats, iguanas, pythons, African gray parrots and even giant turtles.

So where does that leave you? You may have an advantage if you owned the pet before entering into a relationship with the other party. However, many times this is not the case, and animal purchases are made during the relationship. Ultimately, divorcing couples can create their own settlement agreements pertaining to pets. These agreements can include anything from how the pet is to be taken care of, to stipulations that neither party may sell or abandon the pet. If a judge determines that an agreement is fair, then the judge can incorporate it as part of the final divorce decree.

Getting the Legal Representation, You Need

In the event that an agreement cannot be reached, this is when arguments over custody can be heated. This can be a very emotional and frustrating time, especially when you are concerned that your animal companion may no longer be at your side. This is why it is critical that you contact a licensed Connecticut family law attorney like the attorneys at Mariani Reck Lane, LLCto assist you with the custody of your pets. Our attorneys provide professional and experienced legal representation. Call us today at 860-443-5023 to discuss your case.

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