Terese J. Singer

Divorce and Pets

Family Law Attorney Helping Milwaukee Residents

Nowadays, many people view their pets as part of the family. Dogs, cats, and other companion animals are a source of happiness and emotional support for many, which can make the idea of losing access to your pet in a divorce very worrisome. If you are contemplating ending your marriage but are concerned about what will happen to your pet in the process, Milwaukee divorce lawyer Terese J. Singer is available to answer your questions and help you develop a strategy to meet your needs. She will effectively negotiate on your behalf with the goal of reaching an agreement suitable for all parties, but in the event that no compromise is possible, is prepared to vigorously assert your rights in court.

Wisconsin Divorce and Pets

In a Wisconsin divorce, the court will generally treat pets like personal property, similar to furniture or other material belongings that must be divided among the divorcing couple. While this approach may not seem very palatable to people who have strong bonds with their pets, and there are states such as Illinois and Alaska that treat pets more like children in a marital dissolution, when it comes to divorce and pets, Wisconsin and most other states take the approach that companion animals are more akin to property.

One way to avoid allowing the court to decide this issue in a way that may not feel right to you is to do your best to reach an agreement with your soon-to-be former spouse regarding where the pet will live or spend time in the future. A skilled divorce lawyer can help you to approach an agreement of this nature in a strategic and effective manner. It is advisable to reduce this agreement to writing to avoid future disagreements, but keep in mind that the court may enforce the terms of any written resolution that you agree to. Parties who are crafting a divorce settlement can agree to almost any terms that they deem acceptable, meaning that if your ex-spouse agrees, you can include almost any details regarding your pet’s care, routine, or preferences that you would like. In divorces involving children, pets commonly live wherever the children will live after the marriage ends. In other cases, it is possible to set up a visitation or shared ownership arrangement with your former spouse so that you can both continue to spend time with your pet.

If you are unable to reach an agreement independently, it may be worth considering whether this issue can be resolved with the help of a mediator. In a Wisconsin divorce, a mediator is a neutral decision-maker who works with the parties to facilitate an agreement, but who cannot impose a binding outcome. If neither independent negotiation nor mediation are successful, the court will step in and determine ownership of the pet by applying Wisconsin marital property law.

Dividing Marital Assets in Wisconsin

Wisconsin is one of a small number of states in the country that use a community property system to allocate property in a divorce. Generally speaking, this means that any property acquired during the marriage, as well as any debts, will be divided equally among the parties in the marital dissolution process. However, any property that was owned by either party before the marriage, or that they received as an inheritance or gift from someone other than their spouse during the marriage, will likely be considered that spouse’s individual property.

With regard to divorce and pets, these laws may not seem to apply as logically as they might to other types of personal property, but there are a few factors courts commonly take into consideration. For example, it may be significant if either party owned the pet prior to the marriage. Another issue that can be relevant is who provided most of the pet’s care in terms of daily feedings, exercise, vet visits, and other things. In the future, if one party will have more time or monetary resources to care for the pet, or again if the children will live with one spouse or the other, these can be important considerations. Some courts are also beginning to be more receptive to arguments about what is in the pet’s best interest. A knowledgeable divorce lawyer can help you develop and support your arguments with evidence and testimony regarding your pet’s future living arrangements.

Milwaukee Attorney Experienced in Divorce Matters

Facing the end of your marriage is often an emotionally taxing and difficult situation on its own. However, the added fear of losing the ability to spend time with a beloved pet can be a very significant compounding issue. Milwaukee divorce lawyer Terese J. Singer has assisted numerous local residents in navigating matters involving divorce and pets, helping reach settlements where possible but advocating effectively in court when needed. She serves clients in Port Washington, Racine, Mequon, Waukesha, West Bend, and other communities throughout Milwaukee, Racine, Ozaukee, Washington, and Waukesha Counties. Call our office at (414) 271-6400 or contact us online to set up a free consultation.

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