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Who Gets Custody of Pets in Long Island Divorce?

by | Aug 3, 2021 | News and Events

Many people consider their furry friends to be members of the family and thus, some divorcing couples may wish to include pet custody agreements as part of their divorce to stipulate how much time each spouse will spend with the animal. In general, however, New York courts have generally treated pets as property.

In many divorce cases, the ruling as to who gets the pet has been made entirely on the basis of which party could present a receipt proving that they bought the animal. Courts frequently overlooked details like who primarily walked, groomed, fed, and cared for the animal. However, this approach is evolving. Here’s what you need to know about pet custody on Long Island and how to get trusted legal help in your divorce. 

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Changes to Pet Custody Laws In 2018 

On January 1, 2018, the state of New York issued new guidelines regarding the criteria that determines which spouse will receive a family pet. Pet custody is not treated the same as child custody, according to New York courts, and the same rules are not applicable. However, the law now makes the distinction between pets and property that is subject to equitable distribution.

The ‘Best For All Concerned’ Standard in New York 

When it comes to pet custody in New York, the law mandates that the court consider the best interests of all parties involved. While a title does not inherently establish custody, the court will take into account how the pet was acquired, as well as how it was cared for during the partnership and who was responsible for this care. 

Once the spouses separate, the court evaluates the spouses’ authentic arrangement regarding how they individually spend time with a pet to determine who should be awarded custody. The goal is to ensure that the final decree allows the pet to be cared for in a healthy, happy environment with a capable pet parent. 

If one spouse has a disability and uses the pet as an emotional support or service animal, typically custody will be awarded to the person to whom the support animal is registered. 

When Both Pets and Children Are Involved in a Long Island Divorce 

If children are involved in the divorce, the court also examines the relationship between the children and the family pet while deciding on pet time-sharing

If one parent is given main custody of the children or if one parent’s home is the principal location where the children will spend the majority of their time, the court will normally give that parent custody of the pet so as to avoid interrupting the relationship between the children and their family pet. 

Pet Custody Can Become Contentious in Divorce 

For may people, pets are considered family similar to their children, and although the law has changed some to reflect this, it still requires a great deal of legal support to successfully illustrate your case for the custody of one or more pets. 

Sometimes, one spouse won’t care much about who gets the family pet. Other times, a vindictive spouse will attempt to use the pet as leverage to get other things they want, such as more time with the children or not having to pick up their half of the tab for school supplies. They may even make false allegations of pet abuse or neglect in an effort to prevent you from being awarded custody of the animal. This is often for no other reason than to gain control over the divorce in any way possible, even in small, granular ways. 

Get the Legal Support You Need from an Experienced Long Island, NY Family Law Firm 

If you are considering the possibility of filing for divorce or are already involved in the dissolution of your marriage, it’s important that you seek trustworthy legal support from an experienced Long Island divorce attorney

At Hornberger Verbitsky, P.C., we understand how emotionally difficult it can be to navigate divorce from start to finish, especially when more complex issues are involved like child and pet custody. We have the skills and experience to provide you with comprehensive legal representation throughout your Long Island divorce. 

Contact us today to schedule your divorce consultation or to learn more about how a seasoned New York family law firm can be your best ally when going through the complex process of dissolving your marriage. Call our office today for your appointment at 631-923-1910 or fill out the short form on this page. 


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