While everyone thinks about child custody and asset division when it comes to divorce, few people really think about what happens with pets until they're in the midst of the household division. Before you find yourselves pitted against each other in an effort to each keep your pet, it's important that you understand how the courts might handle it. Here's a look at what your family law attorney wants you to know about pet ownership and divorce.

The Court Prefers That You Settle It Yourself

Your family law attorney will tell you that it's in your best interest to work out pet custody amongst yourselves. If there's any way to negotiate who will keep the pets, it's a faster solution than taking it to court. 

Even if you and your ex can't come to a decision just between the two of you, your family law attorney might be able to recommend mediation that will help you to come to a mutual agreement. 

However, most courts realize that this isn't always possible. In fact, sometimes it can be in your best interest to take pet custody issues to court as part of your divorce hearing. 

The Courts Follow Fairly Standard Rules

Pet custody issues aren't handled like child custody issues in court. In fact, most courts view pets legally as possessions, so the final determination of who keeps each pet is based on the legal ownership determinations.

For example, if any of the pets belonged to one or the other of you before you got together, the original owner would keep that pet according to most courts. When it comes to animals purchased as a couple, the determination is a little bit more complicated.

The courts will consider who paid for the animal if that can be documented and proven. Additionally, you'll also be asked to prove who is the primary caregiver for the animal, whose name is on the veterinary records, and more.

Finally, if there are children in the home, the court may decide that the custodial parent keep certain pets if it is in the best interest of the child.

If you believe that you can prove ownership based on the court's considerations, talk with your family law attorney about taking the pet settlement to court as part of your divorce hearing. Otherwise, consider these factors and approach mediation with the facts as you try to settle the custody and ownership of the pets in your marriage.

For more information, contact a family law attorney.