POUGHKEEPSIE, New York. For most couples, pets are our family. But what happens to a shared animal during a divorce? As more families see their pets as part of the family, pets are increasingly becoming a central issue in divorce cases.

According to the New York Times, the courts generally tend to view pets as property, and as such, they are subject to property division laws. This means that if one partner adopted or purchased the pet before the marriage, he or she may be able to claim the pet as excluded from communal property. If the pet was purchased or adopted after the marriage, then the pet may be viewed as communal property and subject to a shared custody agreement.

In recent years, courts have started to consider the best interest of the animals when making pet custody decisions during divorce. In fact, in some cases in New York, courts have awarded alimony payments to cover care for a pet. The New York Times also reports that Alaska was the first state in the nation to put pet custody legislation in place. It is possible that other states may follow suit.

Unfortunately, in acrimonious or challenging divorce cases, sometimes one person may put the pet in an emotional hostage situation to get more money or assets during the divorce. It can get nasty, just like a child custody battle.

According to a recent article in Forbes, when emotions are at stake, or when a person suspects that their partner is using a pet to get a better divorce settlement, it may be wise to speak to a qualified Poughkeepsie, New York divorce lawyer, like the Law Office of Danielle Fenichel. A divorce attorney can consider many different factors when deciding who gets custody of the pet. For example, the courts may ask who regularly cares for the animal. If you are the one who regularly walks the dog, for example, you may be able to make a stronger case for keeping the animal. If you are the one who takes the pet to the vet, you can either support this with receipts or get your vet to write a letter to the court.

If you have children, the person who receives physical custody of the children may also receive custody of the pet.

Finally, the courts may consider other factors that can affect the life of the animal. If one person travels or works long hours, the spouse who doesn’t travel may have a better shot at keeping the pet.

Many factors may be considered when determining pet custody during a divorce. In some cases, couples are able to work out shared custody agreements or even visitation agreements. However, this may require an agreement made through mediation or through the assistance of a lawyer because the courts may not always have the ability to enforce a shared custody arrangement under the law. Much like child custody matters, both parties are best served by reaching an agreement outside of court. If you fight it out in front of a judge, the judge may make a decision that neither party likes.

Pet custody questions can be tough to navigate. If you are concerned about how your divorce will affect your pets, contact the Poughkeepsie, New York divorce lawyer at the Law Office of Danielle Fenichel today.