Some New Hampshire households include families who have pets. There are also many married couples who do not have children but do have dogs or cats. When spouses decide to file for divorce, disputes may arise if the couple in question disagrees about who should keep the pet.
Such issues can cause a lot of emotional upset, especially because many people believe that the well-being of pets should be part of custody proceedings. However, in most states, such issues are resolved as part of property division proceedings. In 2019, a provision was added to New Hampshire property guidelines in divorce, stating that animals are to be included in the category.
The court must consider an animal’s well-being
While care and ownership of a pet is addressed as part of a divorce property settlement in this state, the law specifies that the judge overseeing the case is to “consider the animal’s well-being” as part of the decision-making process. This is where things can get messy because spouses might have opposing views regarding what is best for their pet. As with other issues, such as child custody, alimony or financial matters, if spouses cannot achieve an agreement, the court can make decisions on their behalf.
What if one spouse owned a pet before marriage?
It is understandable that a spouse who owned a cat or dog before marriage would want to retain full ownership of the pet after a divorce. Whether the court would agree that this is the fairest decision may depend on several factors, such as who the primary caretaker of the pet was during marriage. Any spouse concerned about pet issues in a divorce may want to meet with an experienced New Hampshire family law attorney before heading to court.