Pursuing legal action against an ex-spouse who wrongfully detains or takes a pet is possible under New York Law. You can file a lawsuit for custody if you believe your pet is better off in your care.
Dogs, cats, and other animals are more than just pets to many. They’re a part of the family. Going through a divorce and worrying about what will happen to your beloved pet is stressful and upsetting.
In the past, the courts considered pets as property. Laws didn’t place them in the same category as children. However, a recent law in New York allows the courts to consider the needs and interests of pets during custody cases.
New York Pet Custody Law
In October 2021, New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed a pet custody bill, requiring the courts to apply the same factors as child custody to pet custody cases. The law involves companion animals, such as:
- Other domesticated animals cared for by the owner and living in or near the home
Farm animals are not companion animals according to the law.
The court must consider three things when deciding on custody of a companion animal:
- The animal’s best interests
- Whether one party committed domestic violence against the other and if so, the duration, extent, impact, and nature of the acts
- Additional factors the court determines as proper and just
Factors Influencing Pet Custody in Divorce
The court must consider the pet’s best interests to determine who should get custody. Common factors influencing the decision include:
- Whether one spouse owned the pet before marriage
- Aspects of each person’s home affecting the well-being and safety of the pet, such as dangerous balcony, big backyard, size of the home, poisonous houseplants, or loud environment
- The pet’s primary caretaker and each spouse’s relationship with the pet during the marriage
- The animal’s special needs, such as a special diet, prescription medication, or a disability
- Each person’s health and age
- The divorcing couple’s ability to split time with the pet if awarded joint custody
- Whether the necessary pet supplies, such as beds, cages, toys, and feeding bowls, are in each person’s home
- Each spouse’s work schedule, free time to spend with the animal, and pet care arrangements, such as daycare or sitters
- Incidence of domestic violence by one person against the other and evidence of animal abuse
- If the couple has children, each kid’s relationship with the pet and how custody might affect them
How to Pursue Custody of a Pet
You can petition for custody of your pet during a divorce. Gathering substantial evidence to prove your pet will be better off in your care is crucial. You should obtain evidence such as:
- Outline showing who performs more tasks related to the animal, such as cleaning the litter box, walking the dog, or feeding on a schedule
- Photos and videos of you with your pet
- Daily schedules for you and your spouse showing you have more time to care for your pet
- Bank statements, credit card statements, and other documentation proving you pay for pet-related expenses
- Calendar entries showing how often you take your dog to the park, spend time playing with your cat, or groom your pet
- Veterinary records regarding your animal’s medical needs
- Pictures of your home to prove it’s pet-friendly and safe
- Receipts for all necessary pet supplies to adequately care for your animal
- The relationship your children have with your pet, and the negative impact splitting them up might have
- Proof of domestic violence or animal abuse
Speak to a Dedicated Pet Custody Lawyer Today
The Mandel Law Firm fights to protect our clients’ rights in New York, NY. We aim to resolve divorce-related issues amicably when possible. However, we’re willing to aggressively pursue a court case if necessary.
If you want to learn more about how we can help with your pet custody case, call (646) 770-3868 today for a confidential consultation.