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Massachusetts property division: Family pets

Getting divorced? Have a pet? If that is the case, in Massachusetts, what happens to the animal will be determined in the property division phase of the divorce process.

For many people, pets are not just animals, they are members of the family. Thinking of a pet as property seems wrong, but that is simply how the state views it. If a couple cannot agree on who should get to keep the family pet, a judge will make that decision. There will not likely be any thought or concern about what is best for the animal.

In some states, laws are changing to consider pet custody requests. Unfortunately, Massachusetts is not there yet. Couples who really want a say in what happens to their family pets have a better chance of getting what they want by settling the matter through private negotiations, unless either side can show in court that any of the following situations apply to their case:

  • The pet was a gift from one's spouse
  • The animal was acquired by one spouse before the marriage
  • One spouse has been the pet's primary caretaker

Pets are so much more than property to a lot of people. Because of this, it is not uncommon for divorcing couples to want their animal's best interests considered, even though that is not the standard in the state of Massachusetts. One's attorney can help achieve a fair and balanced property division settlement that includes placement of the family pet with the spouse who is best prepared to care for it.

Source: hometownlife.com, "Pets increasingly becoming divorce battleground", Susan Peck, March 27, 2018

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