Divorce and Custody of the Dog and Other Pets
In a New York County case in 2013, the Court in Travis v. Murray 2013 NY Slip Op 23405 [42 Misc 3d 447] was presented with a couple who could not agree on who would get the dog, Joey. The Judge presiding over the case determined that he would grant a one day hearing as to ownership and possession of the dog. Pets are treated as personal property under the Common law and New York State law. The Judge deciding Joey’s fate did depart from the traditional approach in ruling that dogs were different and warranted special consideration from the Court in determining ultimate possession. The Court decided that the standard to be used to make the determination was “what is best for all concerned.”
Each side was given the opportunity to prove not only the benefits each party would receive from retaining Joey, “but why Joey had a better chance of living, prospering, loving and being loved in the care of one spouse as opposed to the other”.
The Judge made it clear that one party would get the dog and the other would lose all rights to Joey. The Court also noted that the Courts would not supervise joint time sharing arrangements pertaining to pets.
Thus, if this decision remains the legal standard in New York, time sharing arrangements for pets in prenuptial agreements, post nuptial agreements, separation agreements and stipulations of settlement in divorce cases will not be enforced or supervised by New York State Courts.