Who gets the custody of pets in a divorce?

In the past, animals were divided like property in a divorce. However, California recently signed a new law that requires judges to consider the “best interest of the animal” in a divorce case. It follows similar laws in Alaska and Illinois.

Similar to child custody and visitation, judges in states with pet “best interest” laws consider several factors when deciding the best interest of the pet. Some of these factors might include:

  • Who feeds the pet?
  • Who walks the pet?
  • Who plays with the pet?
  • Who takes the pet to the vet?
  • Is a spouse’s new residence conducive to having a pet?
  • Will the pet still be able to see children (if any)?

Wisconsin attempted to pass a similar pet custody bill in 2007 that was denied. However, with the recent changes to California’s law, some sources suggest that states such as Wisconsin can expect proposed changes to their pet custody laws in the near future.

Wisconsin laws

Currently, pets in Wisconsin are still awarded based on their “fair market value” in a divorce. In some cases, spouses can even sell the animal and split the assets. For animal lovers in Wisconsin, it can be devastating to have a pet be given the same consideration as other property.

Additionally, because there is no custody or visitation for animals in Wisconsin, it is up to the couple to determine if they want to create another arrangement outside the courts. However, the final decision-making power resides with the spouse who is awarded the pet.

Divorces can be complex, especially if children or animals are involved. If you are getting divorced, consult with an experienced family law attorney to discuss your options and find an arrangement that is right for you.

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