Figuring out child custody is often one of the most critical steps in the divorce process. After you and your ex stop living together, your children deserve a living arrangement that suits their emotional and practical needs.
For many people, the family dog, cat or other pet is almost as important and beloved as their children. Then there are couples that don’t have kids but do have pets. Either way, both spouses might want to keep the animals. It might lead you to wonder if Ohio has “pet custody” alongside child custody.
Property, not children
The short answer is no. Traditional U.S. family law does not recognize pets as having the same rights as human children. All states, including Ohio, consider pets to be “chattel,” a legal term that means personal property. Thus, you and your spouse must determine who will keep the pets the same way you negotiate over furniture, your record collection, etc.
Informal arrangements possible
If you and your ex wish, you can agree to share custody informally. Perhaps Fido can live with one of you, but the other spouse gets to take him to the park on Saturdays and walk them on Mondays and Wednesdays. But officially, Fido would belong to one ex only. If that person decides to stop letting their ex visit with Fido, the spouse who does not own Fido probably would not have any legal recourse.
Recently, a few states have begun to recognize a limited form of pet custody. But it could be a long time, if ever, before Ohio joins this movement. So if you are a pet owner going through a divorce, you should carefully consider what you want to do about your animal companions.