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What happens to your family’s pet in a Massachusetts divorce?

If someone has never had a pet, they may not really understand how an animal can become an integral part of your family. However, pets can play a crucial role in your family dynamics.

They have unique personalities and develop relationships with the humans they love. Your pet may give you the motivation to exercise or help keep your mood stable. They can also be a source of support for children struggling during a divorce.

If you are about to divorce in Massachusetts, you probably have a laundry list of concerns. What will happen to your cat, dog or other companion animals is likely very high on the list of the issues most important to you in the divorce.

Massachusetts will treat your pet like property

Although some people have begun pushing for changes to the state’s approach to pets in a divorce, they currently are just property in the eyes of the law. If a couple can’t set their own terms for an uncontested divorce and a judge must rule on the division of their property, they will allocate an animal to one spouse or the other depending on household circumstances.

Showing that you owned the pet prior to marriage may give you grounds to claim it as separate property. You might also be able to convince your spouse to let you keep the pet because they have a very demanding career. Otherwise, unless you agree on a “custody” arrangement, a judge will decide which one of you gets to keep the animal. Familiarizing yourself with the approach toward pets in a Massachusetts divorce can help you decide what steps to take next.