Only a few states have ruled on custody decisions for pets after a divorce. Connecticut is not one of them.
Connecticut, like most states, views pets under the law as material property — the same as your house or furniture. The legal system is moving toward a better understanding of animals under the law, but for now, Fido is subject to equitable distribution among your other property.
Knowing this, there are some things you can do to achieve a better outcome for your dog or cat during a divorce.
Property division cases and equitable distribution
As the Connecticut Judicial Law Library explains, Connecticut is not a community property state but an “all property, equitable distribution” one. This means that the items you acquired in marriage or shared in marriage are marital property which a court will attempt to divide equitably (not necessarily equally) during a divorce.
This legal system does still allow for separate property — such as items you received as personal gifts or things you brought into the marriage, so long as you have kept these items or funds reasonably separated.
If your property division case goes before a court in Connecticut, a judge will decide what is separate and what is marital property, and how to divide it. The judge will probably consider whether your pet belonged to one partner before marriage. He or she will also consider things like who purchased the pet and pays for the pet’s care, which partner has a greater claim to emotional attachment and whether any children in a custody decision have an emotional attachment, as well.
Recourse to keep your pet out of court
If the idea of a judge deciding what happens to your best friend makes you nervous, there are ways you can avoid it. Prenuptial agreements can include provisions for pets, but if you are going through a divorce, it is likely too late to consider that.
However, some divorcing partners declare their animal as an emotional support animal and register him or her with appropriate authorities. Courts cannot take your emotional support animal, so this may be a route worth considering.
Another viable option is to work out your own divorce and property division agreement with your spouse. Most courts will approve these if there are no glaring concerns, and then they will become legally binding. If you are not able to negotiate an agreement with your spouse, you may consider using your lawyers or a mediator to help.