Pets used to be viewed as property and in a divorce they went to whoever purchased them, or whoever wanted them, period. Today pets are being recognized for what they really are, members of the family. When a custody battle over the family pet ensues, Judges are apt to look at the best interest of the animal and consider the pet’s health and happiness.
So, who should get custody of the Fido in the divorce? If you have children then the parent who will have the children the majority of the time should probably keep the pet. Children are experiencing enough disruption, fear and loss over the divorce and they need the love and security of their best friend. Also keep in mind that the animal has needs and feelings of its own. If one person travels a great deal or has exhibited disinterest in the care of the pet in the past then they might not be the best caretaker after the divorce. Also keep in mind financial considerations and living arrangements. It is possible that one or both of you could be moving to an apartment that doesn’t accept pets or maybe you are moving in with family who do not want the pet.
Some couples have gone so far as to assign custody agreements to the care of their pets and split time between two houses as if the pet were a child. It may seem extreme but to many people the pet is truly a family member they cannot live without. Even if the court in your state will not entertain pet custody issues, the agreement can still be written up and signed by both parties to be enforced. In addition to were the pet lives there are also decisions about healthcare and financial assistance to consider.
There are countless stories of divorces that were going along smoothly until the issue of pet custody came up. People have been known to fight tooth and nail over their furry friends. Harvard law school now has a class on animal law due to the increase in pet custody battles in the United States.
In general, the best way to ensure that you get to keep your beloved pet after a divorce is to use kindness and compromise. If your dog or cat is very important to you maybe you can give up other personal shared items that your spouse wants to keep. Never use withholding a pet as revenge. This cruel and unusual punishment isn’t fair to your spouse or to the animal.