Thursday, October 30, 2014

What Happens to Your Pets in a Military Divorce?

Military Divorce
If you are going through a military divorce, it can be a complicated process both emotionally and practically.  There are many issues that will be decided during your divorce proceedings including how your assets will be divided, who gets to keep the house, and what happens with your child custody arrangements.
For members of the military, this entire process can be far more complicated because one spouse may want to move out of state in order to go back home.  Additionally, if one person is deployed the entire proceedings may need to be stayed until they get stateside.  With the variety of issues that can take place, we recommend working with an attorney that is experienced at working with military members and their families. 

Many people ask us what will happen to their pets in a military divorce.  Pets are members of the family but are not treated by the courts like children.  This means that the judge is under no obligation to consider how to divide “custody”.  Instead, a pet is typically treated as an asset would be. In other words, your pet could be treated like a car or the house.  During trial, the judge can make a binding ruling over who will keep your pet and what will happen to them. 

This is a risk because the judge will also be deciding what happens to all of your assets, your debts, your home and your children.  This is a lot to review and make a decision on, so there is no guarantee that they will spend the amount of time it will take to fully understand the relationship you have with your pet and why it is so important to you that you maintain that relationship.  

It is our job to prove the bond that you have with your pet and that you have been their primary caregiver.  We can help to demonstrate this by proving who took them to the vet and the groomers, who spent the most time with them, purchased them, etc.  The more information you can give us, the better as it will help us to build your case. After hearing the facts, the judge will decide who gets to keep your family pet. 

When handing a military divorce, with or without pets, we recommend that you try to mediate whenever possible.  This is non-binding negotiation with both parties and their attorneys.  You can be in separate rooms, and the negotiations can go back and forth while assets are divided, custody is determined, and the pets are discussed. The reason we recommend trying mediation is that you have more control over what happens that when you go to court.  You may not get exactly what you want, but you have the opportunity to compromise.  For example, we may be able to arrange a pet sharing schedule or your ex may agree to give up your pet if they get something else in exchange.  

To learn more or to get help, give us a call.