For the longest time, animals owned by a couple were pretty much treated like nothing more than livestock. As pets have become more intertwined with American life, social attitudes — and the law — have changed.
Starting in 2019, California began treating family pets more like children. When a couple with pets decide to divorce, the court can essentially divvy up custody and set visitation just like they would do for minor kids.
It’s always better, however, when a couple can decide on reasonable terms regarding their beloved animals for themselves. For example, Star Trek icon William Shatner and his wife recently divorced. They had numerous different animals between them.
Among other things, the actor and his ex-wife have agreed to an apparently equitable split of their animals. Mr. Shatner kept the couple’s two dogs, while his wife kept the two horses to which she was closest. Mr. Shatner agreed to allow his ex-spouse visitation with the other horses they kept on condition that she give him advance notice of her visits.
In general, their divorce seems to include numerous provisions that will make life a bit easier for them both. Mr. Shatner’s ex-wife, for example, will also be allowed to periodically visit the ranch that Mr. Shatner claimed in the divorce to visit a family grave and the graves of some of their horses.
It would be nice if all property issues were easily settled — but not all couples have the ability to sort things out amicably. If you and your spouse are splitting and you have pets that are beloved to you both, it may take some skilled negotiations to find an agreement you can both support.