How Do New York Courts Determine Pet Custody During Divorce?

two people holding cat and dog

When you and your partner decide to get a divorce, it’s essential to understand what will happen to your property, accounts, and most importantly, your pets. If you’re worried about getting custody of your pet, it’s essential to enlist the assistance of divorce attorneys in Nassau County to help you navigate these complex issues. Keep reading to learn more about how the process of retaining pet custody works in New York.

Are There Any Laws Surrounding Pet Custody in New York?

Generally, pets are treated as property, meaning the courts will consider whether they are separate or marital property. However, they were deemed a “special” type of property.

New York is one of a few states that has enacted legislation surrounding how the courts will handle pet custody in 2021. As such, the recently enacted law outlines what pets are protected and how custody will be determined. Protected pets include dogs, cats, and any other domesticated animals living in or near the home, cared for by owners. However, this does not extend to farm animals.

What Factors Influence the Courts?

When the custody of a pet is up for consideration, the courts will look at the following factors:

  • Who was the primary caretaker, including feeding, walking, playing with, and bonding with the pet
  • If the pet was purchased or adopted before the marriage
  • Who was financially responsible for the pet, including paying for grooming, supplies, and medical expenses
  • What the work schedules of each spouse look like
  • If either party has a home and yard with more space for the animal

However, for couples with children, the courts heavily weigh where the children will live. In many instances, children have a special bond with pets, so the courts try to keep kids and animals together when possible.

Like child custody, some courts will grant joint ownership of a pet. However, if the parties live farther apart, a judge may award sole pet custody to one partner, as many animals can become anxious when traveling.

If you’re fighting for custody of your pet, you’ll want to gather evidence to help support your case. This includes photos and videos of you bonding with the animal, veterinarian bills, pictures that show your home is better suited for caring for a pet, or a work schedule that shows you have an abundance of time to dedicate to caring for the pet.

When you’re going through a divorce and want to ensure you can keep custody of your pet, Barrows Levy can help. Our dedicated legal team understands that your pet isn’t just an animal but part of your family. As such, our firm will do everything possible to fight for you and your pet. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help.

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