It's always sad when a once-loving couple splits up, but sometimes love just doesn't work out the way we want. According to a report by the United States Census, New York's divorce rate was 6.1 in 2019, while the marriage rate was 14.3 the same year. Generally, when couples get divorced, the courts will decide who gets to keep certain assets and custody of the children, if couples cannot mediate the split themselves. But what about shared pets?

Photo by Gulyás Bianka on Unsplash
Photo by Gulyás Bianka on Unsplash
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Can New York State Courts Decide Who Gets To Keep Pets In A Divorce?

A bill passed in the state legislature and was signed into law by the Governor in February 2021. Senate Bill S4248,

Relates to requiring the court to consider the best interest of a companion animal when awarding possession in a divorce or separation proceeding.

Now a law on the books in New York State, it amends subparagraphs 14 and 15 of paragraph d of subdivision 5 of part B of section 236 of the domestic relations law.

(14) whether either party has committed an act or acts of domestic violence, as described in subdivision one of section four hundred fifty-nine-a of the social services law, against the other party and the nature, extent, duration, and impact of such act or acts; [and]
(15) IN AWARDING THE POSSESSION OF A COMPANION ANIMAL, THE COURT SHALL CONSIDER THE BEST INTEREST OF SUCH ANIMAL. "COMPANION ANIMAL", AS USED IN THIS SUBPARAGRAPH, SHALL HAVE THE SAME MEANING AS IN SUBDIVISION FIVE OF SECTION THREE HUNDRED FIFTY OF THE AGRICULTURE AND MARKETS LAW; AND
(16) any other factor which the court shall expressly find to be just and proper.

The bottom line is that if the courts are involved, they can, by law, decide who gets to keep the pets. If you are currently the owner of a companion pet and are going through a divorce, you should speak with your attorney about the best way to handle custody of your pets.

**This article does not provide any legal advice.

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