The Animal Law Firm’s animal lawyers are tried and tested when it comes to pet custody disputes in Colorado. Even though you can’t technically have custody of a pet because pets are treated as property by the court, legal disputes can arise over who has a lawful right to keep the pet as property. If you and your partner split up and a pet is something you both love, these “pet custody” battles can get really intense. The court will be left to determine who should retain ownership of the pet, which means you may have to supply evidence to prove you are the owner.
Broadly speaking, the Colorado court will consider three primary factors as they work to determine who has ownership of the pet. More specifically, the court will examine:
To address these factors, the court will expect an array of evidence from both parties. Simply put, the judge will not accept your word as proof. You’ll need to supply as much paperwork and documentation as possible to prove you are the primary owner. You may even consider adding witness testimony, whenever relevant.
Although your pet is legally treated as property, their wellbeing will generally be taken into account by the Colorado court system. If the court determines that you are unable to provide your pet an adequate quality of life as compared to your ex-partner, then it is unlikely to grant you ownership over the pet moving forward.
However, it is worth noting that some Colorado judges place more weight on their determination regarding which owner can provide the pet with the best possible life, while others remain concerned with who has legal ownership over the pet. An animal lawyer is your best resource for industry knowledge regarding the way judges in your area typically approach issues of animal ownership. Then, together you can gather the most convincing evidence to help you earn custody over the animal.
The most fundamental proof of pet custody involves showing you are the individual who either adopted or purchased the pet. If you have proof you are the original owner, you are likely at a significant advantage. You will need to gather documentation to prove this ownership to the court.
However, if you are not the party who originally purchased or adopted the animal, your case isn’t hopeless. If the animal’s original owner has left all care to you, it can be useful to demonstrate to the court that you are the animal’s primary caretaker. Even if you weren’t the one to adopt the animal, acting as its primary caretaker might be enough to demonstrate that ownership should lie with you, rather than the person who initially performed the purchase or adoption. Again, you must substantiate this claim with evidence.
To provide evidence, there are a few things you should supply to your animal lawyer. If you originally adopted the pet or you are listed as the owner of the pet at the vet’s office, these are things that could help during your animal custody case. Bring along the following documents that can support your claim if you were the person listed as the owner:
If you have been the primary care provider for the pet, gather evidence to support how much you paid. Consider receipts for things like:
Any documentation you can provide to show how much you personally paid for the care of the animal and did not get reimbursed from your partner could help you in court.
Sometimes, a court will listen to evidence of who walked the dog, who played with the dog, who spent extra time with a dog. It is good to provide your animal lawyer with the names of independent witnesses who can testify to your care of and time spent with the dog.
If you’re new to pet ownership or beginning a new relationship and would like to avoid the hassle of establishing custody over a pet in the future, it is wise to draft a pet “ante-nuptial” agreement. This document can be created as a precaution, should you and your partner ever separate. With a pet ante-nuptial agreement already in place, it will be quicker and easier to determine who has rightful ownership over the animal.
A pet ante-nuptial agreement can consider a variety of factors, including:
You might also choose to include other end-of-life factors like cremation or burial expenses, and which party will be responsible for covering those costs. If the pet is to be cremated, you may also want to decide who keeps the ashes.
While a pet ante-nuptial agreement is certainly not a requirement, it can be a smart precaution to take should you and your partner ever separate. This document could save you a great deal of time and emotional energy.
Call our our Colorado animal lawyers at The Animal Law Firm at 303-623-4000 in Denver, Boulder, Colorado Springs, Aurora, and surrounding areas to find out how we can help get your pet back in your arms!