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What happens to the family pet in a Massachusetts divorce?

On Behalf of | Jul 28, 2023 | Divorce |

Some assets are hard to negotiate about during a divorce because of how much money they are worth. Certain assets have primarily emotional value, which can make them very hard for people to handle rationally during divorce negotiations. 

Pets are a perfect example. Few things will inspire a fight more intense and emotional than the disputes that arise about what should happen with a companion animal acquired during the marriage. A pet owned by either spouse before marriage might remain one spouse’s separate property, but pets obtained during the marriage theoretically belong to both spouses. 

What can people expect to happen with a pet during a Massachusetts divorce? 

A judge won’t put together a shared custody arrangement

People who share a pet may think of it as a member of the family, but the Massachusetts court system cannot treat every companion animal like a child, as the proceedings would lead to even more of a backlog in the family courts. 

In the eyes of a judge, a pet is property worth a fixed financial amount. The judge will generally award the pet to one spouse or the other if the court has to settle the matter. They will also account for its fair market value when dividing other property. 

However, it is possible for spouses to put together their own shared pet custody arrangement, possibly integrated with a child custody agreement, as part of an uncontested divorce. Understanding how the courts will handle certain assets may make it easier for people to prepare for the most challenging aspects of Massachusetts divorce.