If you could save only one piece of property from your home during a fire, what would it be? A family heirloom, your laptop, a photo album, your phone, a piece of jewelry? For many people, their most valuable item is not really an “item” at all, but a member of the family, albeit not a human member. Because of the emotional value that pets bring to our lives, it is no wonder that during a divorce, pet “custody” is such a big issue. However, Arizona law is not prepared to deal with pet custody at this point, and still views dogs, cats, and hamsters as mere marital or personal property.

Types of Property

There are two types of property. Personal property is everything that each couple owned before marriage, personal injury settlements and lawsuit winnings, gifts specifically given to the individual, and inheritance. Marital property, the other type of property, is all assets, real estate, debt, and other property that was obtained during the marriage. Marital property will be divided during a divorce, whereas personal property will not be. As such, if the dog was obtained before the marriage, it will likely go home with its original owner. However, if the pet was obtained during marriage, it will be considered marital property and decide who gets to keep it becomes more complicated.

Parenting Plan for Pets, or Court’s Decision

Sixty-eight percent of households own a pet, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Roughly half of all marriages end in divorce, according to Time, meaning that Arizona courts routinely decide divorce matters regarding pets. But if pets are not protected under the law by going home with the owner who will adhere to their best interests, such as with a child, how does the court decide? It is often advisable to come up with a pet “parenting plan” with the other party so that both of you are able to spend time with your pet. If it is left up to the court, the pet will most likely belong to only one person. However, the court may choose the person who had the most vested interest in the pet, such as who spent the most time with the pet, purchased it, bought its food and toys, took it on walks or play with it, etc.

Contact a Phoenix Family Attorney

A Phoenix family law attorney will be able to provide more information and help you navigate your divorce and asset division, including who gets the family dog or cat. Contact the Law Office of Ronald L. Kossack in Phoenix today for help.