Determining Pet Custody in an Oregon Divorce

 In Law Articles

It’s no secret that we in the Pacific Northwest love our pets. There are over 30 designated dog parks in Portland alone, and pet-friendly cafes allow us to sip our coffee alongside our furry friends. For many couples, the family dog assumes a child-like status within the household. So, what happens to the dog when the couple divorces? While some states like California have enacted legislation that leaves pet custody arrangements up to the judge’s discretion, Oregon law still considers pets as property. Let’s take a look at how a divorce could impact pet custody and ownership throughout the Portland area. 

Pets Are Considered Property Under Oregon State Law

Even though your pet may be a valuable part of your family, the law does not view pets in the same way as it views children. This means that pets are legally considered property, much like your car, sofa, or kitchen table are considered property. While you may share a deep emotional bond with your pet, the law will still classify your pet as property when determining the terms of your divorce. Unlike child custody negotiations, in which the judge weighs important factors such as the child’s age, needs and wishes, as well as each parent’s ability to provide a safe and loving home environment, pet ownership may simply come down to the pet’s monetary value. 

How to Negotiate Custody Arrangements For Your Pet

Divorcing couples who go through the mediation process may be able to negotiate the terms of pet ownership through a collaborative discussion. One spouse may not want to take on the responsibility of caring for the pet after the divorce and simply agree that the other spouse should have sole ownership. Or, since pets are legally reduced to their monetary value, one spouse may suggest “giving” the animal to their spouse in exchange for an item that is roughly the same value. Some couples may even opt to create their own version of a “parenting plan” for their pet; although this is quite informal and not legally binding, the process of establishing a pet parenting plan can be a good way for divorcing pet owners to enjoy lasting relationships with their beloved animals. 

When Mediation Doesn’t Work

If you are unable to negotiate a divorce settlement through mediation, your case may need to proceed to court in order to be resolved. In this event, the court will apply the principle of equitable distribution, in which marital assets are divided fairly between the two parties. When determining which spouse retains ownership of the pet, a judge may consider which individual put more effort into acquiring and maintaining this “property.” If you have children who are emotionally attached to the pet, the judge may give the primary custodial parent ownership of the animal in order to keep the kids and the pet together. No matter what your divorce goals may be, it’s a good idea to work with an understanding and experienced divorce and family law attorney to obtain a fair and favorable outcome.

 

If you need help navigating a divorce in the Portland area, Lee Tyler Family Law, P.C. is here to help. Call (503) 233-8868 today to learn more about our collaborative divorce coaching and consultation services.

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