Coates & Davenport, P.C.

Which spouse will own the family pet after divorce?

You and your spouse make the difficult decision to divorce. You simply cannot get along, and you both feel that separation would benefit your individual lives. Unfortunately, after you married, you adopted a puppy. The dog is an integral part of both of your lives, but who will keep the pet after Hawaii court finalizes your divorce proceedings?

Hawaii operates as an equitable distribution state. Unlike community property laws, which work to separate assets and debts evenly between each spouse, equitable distribution looks at many factors of your marriage to determine a fair, rather than equal, division of property. Though you may feel that your pet is a member of your family, the court will not recognize your animal as needing custody rights. Your dog will fall under marital property division, and the court will determine which spouse receives your beloved animal.

Especially when dealing with valuable property like your family dog, you want to seek the expertise of a family law attorney. Divorce attorneys in Hawaii can help provide the best opportunity for you to receive your most desired assets - including your furry friend.

Determining factors of pet ownership

When a Hawaii judge determines which spouse will receive specific marital assets, he or she may look at various factors of your marriage. A judge may look at your earning potential, how you contributed to your marriage, your needs as individuals or even your age.

These factors will also help a judge determine who will receive your pet after your marriage ends. Some couples can decide between themselves who will continue to own the dog, but many couples find it impossible give the animal away without an opportunity to let a judge decide.

When a judge looks at your marriage factors, as they pertain to your ability to own the dog, they will decide which spouse proves more capable and willing to own the animal. A judge may ask:

  • Which spouse has more financial benefits for dog ownership?
  • Which spouse purchased the animal?
  • Which spouse spent the most time taking care of the animal?
  • Which spouse has a career that is more flexible in terms of giving an animal attention?
  • Does either spouse have an emotional need for the pet?
  • Is one spouse ill or elderly?

While the court determines these elements, with the help of your attorney, you may have the opportunity to argue for the rights to your animal. Both your attorney and a judge will recognize that the decision to award one spouse with your pet's care is extremely important, so a judge will make the best determination possible.

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