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Determining pet ownership in an Arizona divorce

Arizona’s divorce statutes require dividing all properties obtained during the marriage equally or as fairly as possible. As reported on the ABC 15 Arizona website, the state laws consider animals as property.

If a couple bought or adopted a dog, for example, the animal generally becomes part of the divorce settlement. A couple entering into a divorce may need to discuss who will take ownership of the household pets.

How a judge may decide who keeps a pet

A family court judge may ask questions about an animal’s care when couples contest its ownership. A spouse who contributed money toward a pet’s upkeep, for example, may wish to keep it.

Unusual veterinary treatment may require financial support, which a spouse needs to show he or she could afford after divorce. If a pet belonged to a household with children, a judge may decide to allow it to remain with the kids.

How to show a pet belongs to one spouse

As noted by SmartAsset.com, property that the law does not recognize as a couple’s community property may include gifts and inheritances. If, for example, an individual received a puppy or a kitten as a present, the animal belongs to the recipient.

Couples with prenuptial agreements may have used them to establish ownership of pets, which the court generally honors. Creating a postnuptial agreement after marriage also allows couples to categorize property as belonging to an individual rather than to both spouses.

In some cases, taking ownership of a pet may require buying it from a soon-to-be ex-spouse. Two spouses could also negotiate trading another asset for a pet. The resulting trade agreement may become part of a couple’s divorce settlement.