With nearly 75 percent of households across the country owning pets, it's no surprise that sometimes, these furry family members find themselves caught in the midst of a divorce. Although child custody is a standard consideration when it comes to divorce, settling pet custody isn't always as easy. If you're facing a divorce and wondering what to do about your family pets, you're going to want to work with a family law attorney from a firm like Thomas & Associates, PC to work things out within the boundaries of the law.
Special Considerations for Pets
The biggest reason that pets need to be addressed differently in divorce cases is because most courts consider pets to be property, not family members. This means that there is no custody consideration as far as the courts are concerned, only ownership. As a result, you need to settle your pet custody agreement with your attorneys and include the schedule with your proposed settlement. If it's written up in an agreeable fashion, most courts will allow it even though they don't legally consider custody to be legally relevant for pets.
What to Remember When You're Negotiating Pet Custody
There are a few things that you will need to address as you negotiate the custody agreement for your pets. Here's a look at the key considerations.
- Look at the Records – the owner on record according to any AKC registration, vet paperwork or other documents will be important in the negotiation process. If there are any major decisions to be made, those may default to that owner. But, if you agree on shared custody, you need to be sure that both of you are listed on the vet records so that either of you can address medical needs. Make sure that you both have copies of any microchip information and vaccination records, too.
- Create a Parenting Plan – whether you decide on shared custody or visitation, you'll want to establish some clear ground rules about care and a schedule. This is often easier if you have children as well, because you can transfer the pets between homes on the same schedule as your child's visitation. This may even make the transition easier for your child, because he or she won't be making the transition alone. And, pets can be therapeutic. For young kids, divorce is traumatic, so any added time with their pets can be helpful.
- Address Details and Major Concerns – when you create an agreement for shared custody, you'll want to make sure that you also address the cost of pet care, supplies and medical treatments. As part of this discussion, you'll also need to address who has the authority to make final decisions about the pet's care in the event of a serious illness.
- Have Compassion for the Situation – keep in mind that your soon-to-be-ex likely feels the same level of attachment to your family pets as you do. Additionally, your pets are probably just as emotionally attached to both of you, so this process is going to be emotional and difficult for everyone. Try to make your decisions based on everyone's best interest – including your pets – and not out of spite or a desire to hurt your spouse. A good rule to follow is not to do anything with your pets that you wouldn't do if you were settling child custody.
Divorce is made more complex when you have added considerations, such as a joint business, children or even pets. With the information presented here, you can reach out to a family law attorney with an understanding of the process to protect your pets throughout the process. There's no reason why either of you need to sacrifice your relationship with your family pets if you establish a custody agreement this way.