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Who Gets the Pets? And Other Custody Issues

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When you’re on the road to divorce, you likely have questions about the divorce process and questions in relation to custody issues. Petrelli Previtera, LLC is a top-rated family law firm located in Denver Colorado. We help with all family law related issues, including divorce, mediation, child custody, and child support. We listen to your needs, and do our best to get you what you want from the divorce process. Below, we’ll discuss more custody issues in detail. Contact us today!


The children

Of course, this is the biggest concern when children that are minors are involved in a divorce situation. Naturally, both parents want as much time as possible with their children. Child custody (or now parental responsibilities as it’s officially called under Colorado law) is generally shared by both parents equally here in Colorado unless the court rules otherwise in terms of what’s in the children’s best interest. Parental responsibilities include deciding who the children live with, who gets to make major decisions (such as religion, education, and health), and what visitation will be allowed for others, including grandparents.

However, sharing 50/50 can be difficult, especially if a parent moves out of state. Hence physical custody can be a separate ruling if need be. Every divorce case is different notes Petrelli Previtera, LLC, so it’s hard to make a blanket statement.

The pets

While you may consider your dog or cat a “fur baby”, the courts do not. Pets are considered property under Colorado law and Colorado divorce law, meaning that they are divided up as property is. This means that pets are divided up as part of the division of assets process in a Colorado divorce. Not surprisingly, determining who gets the family dog as opposed to who gets the big screen can be a difficult decision you have to make, especially if your children are attached to their pets.


Petrelli Previtera, LLC notes that there are no strict guidelines in the state of Colorado when it comes to pets. Most judges leave it up to the parties involved to decide. Problems arise however when both vehemently want the family pet, and you just can’t divide the dog in two to share. One option is to find a different home for your pet (although this can be a traumatic experience, giving up your pet you’ve had for years who is a baby in your eyes. Petrelli Previtera, LLC does not recommend this drastic step. Divorce is emotional enough, so adding in mourning the loss of your beloved dog or cat can sink you into depression and this can be the same for children as well).

Some judges will intervene and treat the dog or cat (and other pets such as lizards) like a child and decide what is in the best interest of the pet. Most likely this will involve projecting the future quality of life of the animal. Will the pet be in an apartment or home? Who can spend more time with the pet? Who can afford to feed your 150-pound Great Dane and pay for appropriate vet bills? Who purchased the pet?

In this case, Petrelli Previtera, LLC recommends you gather all of the receipts you can find on how you’ve paid for the dog or cat, such as vet bills and food bills. You can even bring in witnesses who can attest to the fact your dog goes with you everywhere, and every Sunday you are at the park, playing fetch. We understand the importance of pets in your life, and our family lawyers will fight for your dog or cat as much as we will for your children.

If no agreement can be reached still, pets can go to arbitration that is binding, meaning whatever the arbitrator decides, is what goes. Testimony and evidence may be heard in arbitration, but there is no guarantee that it will be. Petrelli Previtera, LLC recommends arbitration as the last step because you cannot change your mind once it’s been decided.

Because this has become such an issue, many couples are putting pet ownership in writing in their prenup, especially if they are bringing a beloved dog or cat into the relationship. You can get as detailed as you wish in a prenuptial agreement, from determining who gets the pets in case of a divorce and even visitation rights. Petrelli Previtera, LLC can help you with all of your prenuptial agreements.

Older parents, physically disabled, or mentally disabled

When you are looking for custody of those not a minor (those 18 and older), it is called guardianship. A guardian in the state of Colorado is responsible for the physical well-being of someone who is deemed incapacitated in some way. This includes ensuring that the day-to-day necessities, such as food, clothing, housing, and medical care are provided for. The person is then known as a ward who is being taken care of.

Children under the age of 18 can have a guardian appointed as well, which usually happens if both the child’s parents are dead or the parents cannot care for the child due to military service, serious illness themselves, incarceration, neglect, child abuse, or substance abuse. Petrelli Previtera, LLC wants to note that guardianship is completely different than custody in divorce cases and does not apply. However, we wanted to mention it since in the case of a divorce and guardianship was involved, such as the care for an elder, the divorce would not affect the guardianship ruling.


In the end, it’s what is best for your pet. It may come down to you deciding who the pet loves most or wants to be with. Some breeds of dogs, for instance, definitely attach themselves to one owner and can become quite depressed when separated from that owner. Similarly, you may have to let go of the family cat if that cat needs to go to the child who lives in another state for most of the year with the other parent. No one ever said divorce was easy. It’s hard. And some difficult decisions will have to be made.

Divorce is a very trying process, and the top divorce attorneys at Petrelli Previtera, LLC want to make your divorce process as easy as possible. When you partner with us, we’ll do our best to ensure all of your desires are met with regards to custody of your kids and pets. We are open and honest with you throughout the entire divorce process, and we’ll tell you what to expect realistically. If you need a family lawyer, give us a call today for your consultation!

Client Testimonials

Here's what our clients have to say about working with us. Please note, results may vary based on individual circumstances.

Melinda Previtera, Esq. came highly recommended to our family. Her knowledge base, professionalism, and compassion paved the way for a successful outcome. Melinda is efficient, detailed, and informative. She helps manage expectations, and postures her client for a fair and equitable result. We are happy to recommend Melinda!

Jennifer A.

My experience was very good. Everyone was professional and attentive to my needs, keeping me updated every step of the way. I couldn’t ask for a better result, highly recommended.

David R.

My marriage life has been a hell for me for the past four years until I decided to put an end to what has to be ended. Choosing a lawyer was another additional stressful part of the long process. I’m so glad that I’ve found the right one for me at Petrelli Previtera. Life isn’t always fair, but at least having her in my corner, felt even better. I couldn’t recommend her highly enough!

Caitlin B.

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