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Understanding Pet Ownership in Colorado Divorce: A Guide for Pet Parents

Updated: 05/04/2023

Est. Reading: 7 minutes

Are you a pet owner going through a divorce in Colorado? If so, the process of "pet dispute" can be difficult and stressful. You may find yourself worrying about who will take care of your beloved fur babies, or how to fairly divide your furry family. From pet ownership disputes to visitation rights and pet custody agreements, navigating the legal system is not always easy.

This guide will provide you with an overview of pet ownership in Colorado divorce, from personal property to Marital and separate property, along with tips for handling pet custody disputes and visitation arrangements. We'll also discuss the importance of involving family law attorneys and prenuptial agreements when it comes to protecting your pet's well-being. Finally, we'll delve into the steps you can take to ensure an acceptable plan for your furry family.

Contact an experienced Colorado Springs divorce attorney today and get the help you need in securing your pet's future at (719) 625-8886!

How is Pet Ownership Defined?

Pet ownership disputes in Colorado divorce can be complex and challenging to navigate. When it comes to dividing a family's assets during the divorce process, pets are typically classified as either marital or separate property. According to a report by the American Veterinary Medical Association, 80% of pet owners consider their animals to be part of their family.

Marital property is any asset acquired during the marriage that both parties have legal rights to, while separate property is any asset owned prior to the marriage. When it comes to animals, the pet's purchase price and any related expenses are typically used as evidence of ownership.

a happy dog getting pat on the head by it's owner

In some cases, pets may be classified as joint owners if both spouses shared in their care for the animal—for example, by taking the pet to the veterinarian and providing food, shelter, and other necessities. In these situations, both parties may be able to claim legal ownership or joint possession of the pet if they can prove that they have a financial interest in its care.

When determining pet ownership in divorce, the state of Colorado considers a companion animal to be property and therefore subject to the same rules as any other type of personal or real property. This means that all assets are divided based on who owned them prior to the divorce and whether they should be considered separate or marital property.

Visitation Rights and Pet Care

When it comes to the divorce court process, visitation rights, and pet care arrangements must be carefully considered. In some cases, one spouse may be awarded primary custody of their children while the other is given visitation rights; however, the same is not always true for pets. Pet custody arrangements may be included in a divorce decree, but it’s important to note that these are not legally binding and can be changed at any time.

It is worthy of note how a pet may be affected by domestic violence or other family issues. If one spouse has committed acts of violence against the other or their pet, it is critical to seek legal advice and consider the animal’s well-being. The court may also order a pet visitation schedule in cases where one spouse is awarded primary custody of the family pet.

Property Division of Pets in a Divorce

Generally, it is crucial to understand Colorado's pet custody laws, as well as the distinction between marital and separate property when dividing a family's assets and determining ownership of the animal companions.

There are several ways to divide pet ownership in a divorce. The court can divide the ownership of the pet based on who owned the animal prior to the marriage, or if the pet was purchased during the marriage, then the court will consider who pays for its care and related expenses.

Did You Know? A pet is considered personal property under the law, just like any other material possession. In 2022, a survey revealed that more than one in four divorces involved disputes over the ownership of a family pet.

During the pet custody hearings, the court may also consider who has the best ability to care for the animal and what is in its best interest. If both parties agree on a plan, they can enter into a pet custody agreement, which is usually binding and enforceable.

If the parties are unable to agree on the original owners, the court may appoint a mediator to assist in creating an amicable solution. The court may also consider the parties’ financial resources, the cost of providing care for the pet, and the significance of the animal to both parties’ lives.

Prenuptial Agreements and Pet Custody Agreements

A prenuptial agreement can be used to specify who will gain ownership of a pet in the event of a divorce. This document should be signed by both parties and outline which spouse will take care of the animal, how visitation rights and pet care will be handled, and any other details related to the animal’s well-being.

In some cases, couples may also choose to draw up a pet custody agreement that outlines who has legal ownership of animal property and how financial responsibility is shared. This document should also specify any visitation rights or joint custody arrangements. If necessary, couples may also seek legal advice to help them resolve pet custody disputes or determine an equitable division of property. For more information about this, call today and speak to our knowledgeable property division attorney, Jeanne M. Wilson!

Joint Custody or Primary Custody?

When it comes to pets, couples may choose to pursue either joint or primary custody. In a joint custody arrangement, the pet will spend equal time with both parties and will be considered co-owned by them.

Primary custody, on the other hand, means that one party is legally responsible for the animal’s care and welfare. This type of arrangement is typically used when one spouse is unwilling or unable to care for the pet, or if there is a disagreement over who should have legal ownership.

Visitation Rights and Pet Visitation Schedules

When one spouse is awarded primary custody of a pet, the other may be granted visitation rights. This could include anything from occasional visits to regularly scheduled meet-ups or overnight stays.

a man smiling at his dog after getting custody

To ensure that both parties are happy with the arrangements and the animal's well-being is taken into consideration, it is important to create a pet visitation schedule that outlines when and where the pet will stay. This document should also include details on who is responsible for providing food, vet visits, and other necessities.

Challenges to Pet Ownership Disputes During a Divorce

Pet ownership disputes can be challenging to resolve and are often complicated by emotion. Many couples struggle to come to an amicable agreement, particularly if the pet was a gift from one spouse or was acquired during their marriage.

So, it is critical to understand some of the common challenges that can arise during a dispute as well as the important steps couples can take to protect their pet's best interests.

Proof of Ownership

When it comes to pet custody battles in divorce, both parties may need to provide evidence such as purchase documents or vet records to determine if the animal is considered marital or non-marital property, and who has legal rights of possession and joint ownership. Particularly, where both parties may claim to have a financial interest in the animal's care.

Medical Issues

If a pet is injured or becomes ill during the divorce process, both parties may need to agree on how medical expenses will be handled. It is important to discuss this issue in detail before moving forward.

Must Read: Questions to Ask Your Colorado Springs Divorce Attorney

Child Custody Arrangements Affecting Pet Care

In some cases, the custody arrangements for a pet may be affected by the decisions made regarding child custody. If one party is unable or unwilling to take care of the pet due to parenting time, this should be considered. This should be discussed with a family law firm in order to determine residential custody, possession of pets, and the type of property included in the marital estate.

Unresolved Issues in Other Areas

When it comes to dividing property during divorce, unresolved issues in other areas of the marriage can complicate matters. For example, if there are unresolved financial issues, this could affect how pet care expenses are handled.

Pet Expenses

Caring for a pet can be expensive and both parties may need to agree on who will cover these costs. In some cases, spouses may choose to divide pet-related expenses, such as vet visits and food. Alternatively, one party may agree to take on the majority of responsibility for pet care.

How Family Law Attorneys Can Help

Family law attorneys can provide valuable advice and assistance to those facing pet ownership disputes in divorce. Experienced attorneys understand the complexities of animal custody and are experienced in developing comprehensive pet custody agreements, as well as handling other legal issues such as burial expenses, pet expenses, adoption contracts, family furniture, Legal Status, bank accounts, fatal illness, parenting plans, and more.

a woman petting her dog on her bed after a divorce

In addition to providing legal advice, family lawyers can also help pet owners reach a fair and equitable agreement on the disposition of their pets. This could include anything from developing a pet custody schedule to determining who is responsible for medical expenses or other financial obligations related to pet care. A qualified attorney will be able to provide guidance on the best course of action, as well as suggest ways to resolve disputes quickly and amicably.

By involving family law attorneys in the divorce process, couples can ensure that their pet's best interests are taken into consideration and that any agreements reached are fair, equitable, and in the animal’s best interest. With the right legal advice and guidance, you can ensure that your fur baby is taken care of during and after the divorce.

Call Jeanne M. Wilson Today!

Navigating pet ownership disputes during a divorce can be difficult, but with the right knowledge and support, it doesn’t have to be. By involving divorce lawyers, prenuptial agreements, and pet custody agreements in the process, couples can ensure that their furry family members are taken care of and their best interests are protected.

Ultimately, it is essential to take a long-term approach when it comes to pet ownership in divorce. This can help ensure that the pet’s needs are taken into consideration and that both parties involved feel they have reached an acceptable plan.

The Law Office of Jeanne M. Wilson & Associates understands the importance of protecting your pet's well-being and providing families with a fair, equitable solution. We’re here to help you navigate the legal system in Colorado and ensure that you have an acceptable plan for your furry family. Give us a call at (719) 625-8886 to learn more.

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