Who Gets Pet Custody in a Divorce?
Breaking up is hard to do. Especially so when there are children and pets in the family picture. We’re all familiar with child custody. But, what about pet custodyt? Not long ago, pets were considered to be personal property. Thus, divided between the two parties just as the furniture, cars and family heirlooms. However, pets are being viewed more as family members than as property, by their owners. Thus, it’s becoming a greater issue with regards to who gets “custody” of the pets in a divorce.
Not unlike with child custody cases, the court mediators and judges take into account what is best for the pet. They are looking at factors, such as:
- Who is the main caretaker of the pet? Who performs daily pet duties of feeding, cleaning, exercising, etc.?
- Who is mainly responsible for taking the pet to the vet?
- Who carries the main financial burden of the pet?
In some instances of a break-up, the decision of pet custody is fairly clear-cut – one partner is moving someplace that doesn’t allow pets; one partner owned the pet prior to the beginning of the relationship. If there are multiple pets, it might be feasible to split them up between the parties, assuming the pets will be okay with being separated. Shared custody can work for dogs. However, this is not recommended for cats, as they do best with a continual environment. Another option is for one party to keep the family pet, but to help with the cost of acquiring another pet for the other party.
As with all custody cases, our hope is that everyone’s eyes are on what’s best for the animals. There are lots of considerations. It’s an emotionally-charged time, so it’s a good idea to step back to try to view from a logical perspective. A court mediator, family members, religious advisor, friends, etc., may be helpful sources of input.
If you want to potentially avoid future conflicts of pet ownership, you may even consider adding pet custody into your prenuptial agreement.
Being a single pet parent can be challenging. If you do win custody of your fur babies, let us be your partner in your pets’ care.