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Who Keeps the Family Pets After a Divorce?

Written by on February 14, 2022

Going through a divorce in Indiana is difficult enough when you are only concerned about how retirement benefits, bank accounts and investments, and your real estate will be divided. When there is also a family pet, divorces can become even more contentious, especially when both spouses want to keep the dog, cat, or other animal that has become part of the family. According to an article in Time, pet custody cases have become common, and a number of states across the country have amended their divorce laws so that courts can consider pet custody in divorce cases, with ex-spouses sharing custody of a pet much the same way they might share custody of a minor child. Yet Indiana is not yet one of these states. 

Instead, in an Indiana divorce, courts will determine who keeps the family pets based on the laws of equitable distribution.

Pets are Considered Property in an Indiana Divorce

While most people who own pets do not think of their pets as property, but rather as family members, Indiana divorce courts cannot award pet custody or consider issues of pet custody in a divorce. Instead, Indiana laws used to divide other types of marital property will be used to determine who keeps the family pets after a divorce.

Under Indiana’s equitable distribution law, a court will favor the equal division of the marital property, though if either party can prove that this division would be inequitable, then the courts will change course. Factors that can be used for an unequal but fair distribution of marital property can include, for example, the parties’ conduct during the marriage as it relates to the property and the extent to which the property was acquired by each spouse.

This is how the court will ultimately determine who will keep the family dog, cat, or other pet after a divorce. 

You May be Able to Negotiate and Enter Into a Marital Settlement Agreement

While it might sound unfair that pet custody cannot be awarded and that time with a family pet cannot be shared after a divorce, you may be able to enter into a marital settlement agreement if you really want to be the one who keeps the family pet. By negotiating with your spouse through your attorneys, you may be able to give up certain other assets in order to retain ownership of your animal. 

An Indiana divorce lawyer can provide you with more information about marital settlement agreements, and can explain what you may need to consider in the negotiation process in order to keep the family pet.

Contact an Indiana Divorce Attorney

If you are going through a divorce case or planning to file for divorce and you have concerns about how the court will handle possession or ownership of a family pet, one of our experienced Indiana divorce lawyers can help. Contact The Bellinger Law Office to learn more about property division in an Indiana divorce and options for keeping your family pet. 

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