Today, most people consider their pets as family members. So, what happens to those pets when two spouses divorce? Will one party be awarded “primary physical custody?” Is there a “parenting time” schedule ordered? Are the “best interests” of the pets considered? While custody disputes over pets in divorce proceedings have become increasingly more common, the short answer to all these questions is, unfortunately, no, at least in Indiana.

Indiana courts have in recent months made clear pets are property and it is the property rights of the parties, rather than their respective abilities to care for said pets, or their emotional ties to the pets, that are determinative. While undoubtedly harsh, Indiana courts have even reversed trial court decisions allowing pets to travel back and forth between spouses. Indiana statutory law does not provide any relief either as there are no provisions in the same accounting for pet visitation, therefore, whichever spouse is awarded the pets at the time the parties’ divorce is finalized, will have sole possession of the pets.

Therefore, should you and your spouse be unable to come to an agreement outside of Court regarding your pets, and property, the Court will turn to Indiana’s equitable distribution principles to make an equal division of all property, including pets, which of course can be rebutted by factors including, but not limited to: the contribution of each spouse to the acquisition of the property, or pets, the extent to which the property, or pets, was acquired by each spouse, the economic circumstances of each spouse at the time the disposition of the property is to become effective; and the conduct of the parties during the marriage as it relates to the disposition or dissipation of the property, or pets.

The attorneys at May Oberfell Lorber are well versed in assisting clients navigating these issues.

This article is for information purposes only and is not intended to constitute legal advice.