When a marriage breaks up, it also has to be clarified what happens to the pets. This can lead to painful separations. Because there is no custody like that of children.
Munich (dpa / tmn) - Bello and Mieze are beloved family members, fur-soft comforters, man's best buddies. But when a marriage breaks up, they have the same status as a car or a washing machine: although animals are, it says "no things" in Section 90a of the Civil Code. But "the regulations applicable to things are to be applied accordingly, unless otherwise specified".
And that's the case with divorce law: If pets were purchased during the marriage, "they are part of the household items that are shared between the two former partners," says Undine Krebs, a specialist in family law from Munich. Where in future dog baskets, cat scratching posts or parrot aviaries stand, must be negotiated between the spouses before the divorce is carried out.
In the best case they can agree: you get the washing machine, I take the dog. In the worst case, the argument about the animal makes the divorce particularly painful. Because there is no right of custody or contact like for children, says Krebs.
Those who go empty-handed have neither rights nor obligations
Once the separation is complete, the dog, cat or guinea pig belong to one of the two ex-partners, the other has no rights, but also no obligations. He may not make any claims to regular dog walks, but he also does not have to co-finance food or a veterinarian.
"The main argument is about these financial issues," observes the divorce lawyer. Some fear the costs, which are to be expected especially with older animals. Then it can be negotiated whether the ex-owner or -mistress shoots money. Sometimes the animals also become a leverage when it comes to completely different topics, for example the children.
"Anyone who comes out of the divorce negatively because they have been cheated on is trying to wipe out the other one," says Andreas Ackenheil. The lawyer, who specializes in animal law, is consulted by divorce lawyers when there is a dispute over the animal.
Take animal needs into account
The well-being of the animal quickly falls out of sight and should nevertheless be decisive for deciding who a pet should live with in the future, says Ackenheil: "Ideally, both sit down at a table and advise who can offer the animal the best conditions. " Is there enough space in the new apartment? Is it good for the cat to be alone all day in the house in the future?
If no agreement can be reached, the family judge checks whether the animal can be assigned to mistress or owner. The name on the purchase contract is not necessarily relevant. Maybe the other person is the caregiver because he always went for a walk with the dog. Or it makes sense not to transplant the old tomcat out of its territory around the former family house.
Multiple animals are not split automatically
Several animals are therefore not automatically divided between both partners: a pack of four dogs must stay together, the Nuremberg Higher Regional Court decided in 2016. The animals had already participated enough during the separation of the spouses. The dog pack should not be separated (Az. 10 UF 1429/16). You cannot rely on such a judgment: "It is always a case-by-case decision," says Ackenheil.
Good cards are available to those who prove with bills or documents that the animal can be assigned to them. Such documents are even more important when unmarried couples separate. Whoever can prove that he is the owner gets the animal. If he wants it: an animal often falls by the wayside because neither partner can take care of it anymore, because dogs are not allowed in the new apartment, because the new partner is allergic to cat hair.
Do not sell "divorce animal" via classified ad
How many of the almost 350,000 animals that are newly admitted to a shelter in Germany every year are "divorce animals" cannot be quantified, explains Lea Schmitz from the German Animal Welfare Association: "It definitely does happen again and again."
Handing the animal over to the animal shelter is always better than selling it through a classified ad, she emphasizes. After all, one does not know "whether the new owner is really suitable or, in the worst case, if he sells or gives the animal away".