Not all married couples who want to start a family have children. Some of them add animals to their family. Others have a combination of progeny and pets that gives them a feeling of home and happiness.

Going through a divorce is difficult in every situation, but it can be particularly terrifying as someone with a deep attachment to an animal. Worries about companion animals, just like worries about children, can lead people to stay in unhappy or even abusive relationships. What will generally happen with pets during a divorce in New York?

Is your pet marital or separate property?

The decisions the courts make about animals in a divorce will largely depend on who owns the animals. If one spouse had to be for years prior to marriage and managed most of the care of the pet during the marriage, the animal might be separate property for the purposes of the divorce proceedings.

If both partners contributed to the animal’s upkeep, if they acquired the animal during the marriage or if the spouse who didn’t own the animal assumed temporary but total custody and control over the animal at some point, the courts may consider it marital property, meaning that each spouse could have a claim to the animal.

Thankfully, the New York courts don’t typically treat an animal just like a possession with a financial value.

The courts will make a decision based on the best outcome for all concerned

While pets may not receive the exact same treatment as property, they also don’t receive the same consideration that children do, where the courts focus primarily on the best interest of the children to make a decision.

Instead, the approach in New York currently falls between these two options. The courts will consider what is best for all concerned and use that to make a decision about who will retain possession of the pet. It’s important that you understand that the courts generally will not order shared custody of animals in New York, although they may approve an uncontested divorce whose terms include shared pet care arrangements.