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For many couples in New York, household pets are the heart of their family. Whether you and your spouse have decided not to have children, want to wait for a few years before you have children or have already had children who are adults that have left your house, it’s possible that your pets could become a major source of contention in an upcoming divorce.

Your pets can play a major role in your emotional health and overall happiness. Chances are good that you and your ex want to continue to enjoy the companionship of your beloved pet. Can you potentially have the courts arrange for shared pet custody during your New York divorce?

The courts don’t treat pets like possessions or like kids

For quite some time, New York’s stance on pets and animals in divorce was to treat them simply like property with financial value. That changed in 2018 when changes to the law adjusted the way that the court should approach pets.

Currently, the courts should apply the standard of “best for all concerned” when making a determination about pet custody. In other words, while animals receive more consideration than mere possessions, they don’t receive the same consideration from the courts that children do.

The New York courts will determine which spouse can provide better living arrangements or the one with the stronger claim to the animal. They won’t create a shared possession or custody plan for an animal, no matter how loved.

You and your ex could set your own terms in an uncontested divorce

There is an exception to the rule that shared pet custody isn’t an option in New York. If you and your ex can file an uncontested divorce, you have the right to set your own terms, which could include a shared custody arrangement for your pet.

Some couples have already outlined their preferences about sharing animal custody in prenuptial agreements before they get married. Others negotiate the terms early on when they begin discussing getting divorced. If sharing the animal seems like the best option, the two of you or your attorneys may have to make those arrangements outside of the courts.