Family pets to some people are more than just animals; they are members of the family. Their are not pieces of property to just be passed around or tossed aside. Unfortunately, when it comes to divorce, the state of Missouri only considers them as property and does not concern itself with their well-being.
So, what does this mean if both spouses still want time with their pet post divorce? At the end of the day, the animal may be awarded to one party as part of the divorce settlement. If a couple wants to set up a pet custody agreement, they would have to do it outside of the settlement agreement. Through private negotiations, creating a binding pet custody agreement may be possible.
Those who do not want to share custody, but want to make sure that the pet is given to them, would basically need to show that their animals are really their own personal property. There are three ways to do this. First, one would need to provide evidence that the animal belonged to him or her before the marriage. Second, one would need to provide proof that the pet was bought as a gift for him or her. Finally, third, one would need to show that he or she has always been the pet's primary caretaker.
Pets as property -- it seems so wrong when they are usually so much more than that. Unfortunately, that is the way it is in Missouri. Will that ever change? Only time will tell. In the meantime, those who are going through the divorce process here can work with legal counsel to ensure their family pets are placed in the best situation.
Source: hometownlife.com, "Pets increasingly becoming divorce battleground", Susan Peck, March 27, 2018