A New York Times report from 2016 showed that millennial couples are having fewer children and are taking up the responsibility of caring for more pets. Their reporters found that 51 percent of those in their thirties had cats and 75 percent had dogs. Since an overwhelming number of Westerville couples have them, it may leave you wondering what happens with the pets when they divorce.

Up until the past few years, family court judges treated family pets as nothing more than property when couples would get divorced. During the many decades this was the case, the judge would tend to award the “companion animal” to whichever spouse contributed the largest amount of money to caring for the family pet.

As more couples are replacing children with pets, though, many spouses have begun seeing them as a more valued member of their families. The amount that they spend on them has significantly increased.

Sooner than later, Ohio family law judges may start seeing pets less like property, and instead, as a child that parents need to negotiate a custody agreement for.

Legislation that requires family law judges to do this has been in existence in Florida since 1995. States including Illinois, California and Alaska have recently adopted laws that require a judge to consider what’s in the best interest of a pet when deciding how to deal with them.

An increasing number of former spouses have reached agreements whereby their family pet is transferred between parent alongside the kids. These agreements tend to remain in effect until the pet dies.

If the thought of you missing a day with your pet leaves you feeling uneasy, then there are two circumstances under which you may not have to share them with your ex. If you took in your pet before you and your ex got together, then they may have no legal right to it. If your pet was included in your prenuptial agreement, then you may not have to share it either.

Our pets rely on us to take care of them just as much as we count on them for the companionship and affection that they provide. When you’re going through emotional turmoil in your life, it can be refreshing to have your pet at your side to give you that unconditional love and affection that you most desperately need. An attorney can be a strong advocate when you need one.