Couples going through a divorce in Massachusetts have a lot of decision making to do. One area of contention among families is who will get the pet(s). If both spouses are close with the family pet, they may fight over who gets custody and wonder if there are visitation rights. As with deciding child custody, emotions can run strongly when it comes to furry friends.
According to the Massachusetts Trial Court Law Libraries, the state treats pets as property, such as a couch or a piece of artwork. A judge can grant ownership to one party or the other based on either what is best for the pet or simply to whom the pet belonged before the marriage.
Huffington Post discusses that one of the reasons courts do not want to determine custody and visitation is because they are bogged down with those related to children. Still, the pet's care is typically considered when making the decision who gets the pet. Some of the things judges consider include:
- The party who had the pet first
- Who spends the most time with the pet
- Who walks and feeds the pets
- Who brings the pet to vet appointments
- Which spouse gets child custody, as pets often go to the same place
- If there is another pet (they should typically stick together)
Couples should keep in mind that divorce proceedings can take a toll on the pet as well. Focus on the pet's wellbeing and notice if it is sleeping more than normal, is not eating, seems sad, has accidents around the house or is not interested in normal daily activities. You should also take it to the vet and make sure it is well physically.