Who Gets the Family Pets in a Divorce?

The standard for the well being of children in a divorce or parenting case is “the best interest of the children,” but what about our beloved pets?

A new law in New Hampshire, signed by Governor Sununu, House Bill 361 on June 25, 2019, will take effect on August 24, 2019 deals with pet custody.  The new law amends RSA 458:16-a, the property settlement statute, to include animals as tangible property in Annulment, Divorce and Separation cases placing pets are under the jurisdiction of the court. 

Not only does the amendment address the ownership of animals it also provides judges with the obligation to consider the care and well-being of animals in a divorce case.

This statute is not applicable in parenting cases however, because property of the parties who are not married is not taken into considered by the court.  This means that animals in a parenting case will not fall under the authority of the court.

How could this new law change the landscape of divorce cases? The property section of Separation Agreements in cases could look much like a parenting schedule for pets.   Trials may include evidence in the best interest of the family pets.  The parties will more than likely argue why they should get more “pet time” than the other party or why they should get sole custody of the animals.  There could be financial arguments over and who should pay for the veterinarian bills, food and boarding fees, etc.

Let’s face it, we love our pets as much as we love our children and dare I say in some cases, perhaps more! It is important to know your rights and make informed decisions regarding your case. It is always advisable to contact an experienced divorce lawyer to guide you with your matter.  Call Theresa Spearing at 1-800-240-1988 or fill out our online contact form.

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