Pets in Divorce
This legal guide discusses basic issues concerning peoples' pets during a divorce. This guide is designed to help pet owners prepare for the realities of what happens to their animals post-decree when the divorce is finalized. Information on guarding against animal abuse is also included.
Colorado Law Concerning Pets.It is no secret that Coloradans love their pets. According to a 2011 report by the American Veterinary Medical Academy, 63.2% of pet owners considered their pets to be family members. Not surprisingly, Colorado even has a statute solely dedicated to trusts for pets! See, C.R.S. § 15-11-901. However, Colorado domestic courts have not taken the approach that pets are integral members of our family; rather, pets in Colorado are deemed to be either marital or separate property depending on when the animal was purchased.
This does not sound right does it? A pet is viewed as being synonymous with a car, couch, or recliner chair—how can that be? Animals for much of history were viewed as having more utility value and as being income producers rather than being companions and the law treated them as such. Thus, there is no such thing as custody or pet visitation in Colorado. In a divorce, one party will be awarded the animal unless the parties can agree as to a scheduled exchange of the animal. Thus, it is important to have an attorney that can discuss your options and litigation strategy concerning your pet if that is of paramount concern to you. It is best in a dissolution proceeding to consult with an experienced family law attorney who can assist you with navigating the issues of your case and provide alternative solutions such as stipulated agreements regarding custody and visitation of your pets.
How to Prevent Animal Abuse During Divorce.As an exception to the rule above, if you are worried about a spouse or significant other harming an animal during the divorce proceedings, you can petition the Court for a civil protection order to protect: “An animal owned, possessed, leased, kept, or held by either of the parties or by a minor child of either of the parties.” C.R.S. § 13-14-101(2)(b).