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What happens to your dog when you divorce in Wisconsin?

On Behalf of | Mar 3, 2022 | Divorce |

The end of a marriage is often an emotional time. Although you and your ex agree that divorce is the right choice, it can be hard to change your living circumstances and family. Even if you and your spouse don’t have children together, you may share a dog or other companion animal.

Your emotional attachment to your pet could make divorce more difficult for the entire family. Spouses without child custody to focus on may fight over their pets instead. The idea that you may never see your beloved pet again may be too difficult for you to even consider.

Can you go to court and ask a Wisconsin family law judge to order shared pet custody?

Litigating animal custody is not an option in Wisconsin

No matter how much you love your pet, it does not have the same rights as a person under Wisconsin law. Instead, it is essentially a piece of personal property. Your dog is only worth a certain amount of money in the eyes of the court and will become the property of one spouse after the divorce.

If you had your dog or cat prior to marriage, the courts may agree that it is your separate property and you can keep it without any complications. However, pets that you acquired during the marriage may be community property. In fact, even an animal you owned prior to marriage could be community property because you and your spouse used marital resources to support the pet.

The courts will eventually assign the animal to one spouse or the other. They will do not treat the animal like a person and negotiate a shared custody arrangement.

Pets can be a motivation to settle out of court

Although a Wisconsin family law judge will not waste the court’s time discussing a shared pet custody arrangement, they could approve your divorce settlement that includes such arrangements.

If you and your ex can negotiate a property division settlement and terms for sharing custody of your pet, you can include all of that in your divorce filing and asked a judge to approve it. Even if it is part of a court order, you may have a hard time enforcing a pet custody arrangement if your ex starts refusing you time with the animals out of spite.

Understanding the laws that apply to your family when you divorce can help you set realistic and achievable goals for the end of your marriage.