Splitting up the furniture and credit card bills is stressful during a divorce, no doubt. But the real anxiety is often associated with the division of property that has personal value. The family photos; that crooked ceramic dish made by your teenage son; and yes, the family pet. The fact is, six in ten families have a pet they love. So when it comes to divorce, how can a decision be made that satisfies everyone?
Fighting Over Fido
It probably won’t surprise most pet owners that custody battles involving pets–primarily dogs, with cats in second place—are becoming more and more common these days. Without a doubt, some people view their pets almost as children. Imagining themselves estranged from their beloved four-legged family member is unthinkable.
When both parties in a divorce feel the same way about the family pet, it can be heart wrenching on both sides. On the other hand, when one partner is ambivalent to the pet, but knows the other partner is deeply attached, the pet could be used as leverage.
What’s Best for the Pet?
When divorcing parties cannot come to an agreement as to the custody of a family pet, the court winds up having to intervene. Several factors will be under review. In much the same way courts look at the best interests of children, it will consider the best interest of the pet:
- Where would the pet’s lifestyle be best accommodated? If it’s a Golden Retriever, a home with a yard makes more sense than a 700-square foot apartment.
- Who has been most responsible for the care of the pet to date? If the pet is a dog, who has taken it on regular walks, taken care of dietary needs, and ensured regular vaccinations and licensing was taken care of? Who cleaned the kitty’s litter box and stocked up on catnip? The person who attended to the pet in the past is, in all likelihood, better equipped to continue with those responsibilities in the future.
- Whose schedule is best suited for pet ownership? A puppy will struggle being left alone for long stretches of time while it’s owner is working overtime or taking frequent business trips.
Other Considerations in Pet Custody
Additional issues that could play into a judge’s decision when it comes to pet custody include:
- Whether or not the pet was purchased after the marriage, or one of the partners entered the marriage with it;
- Whether a prenuptial agreement addresses pet custody;
- Whether or not there are children in the family who are attached to the pet.
As you deal with the dissolution of your marriage and begin a new life, it is critical that you have a legal advocate who understands your priorities moving forward. At the office of Derek L. Hall, PC, The Heavy Hitter, our legal team will use everything in our legal arsenal to ensure you get the settlement you deserve in your divorce. Contact us in Jackson for a free, confidential consultation today.