As our country evolves more and more into a nation of pet lovers, laws concerning those pets are being looked at differently. Pets have always been labeled as personal property. Some pet owners consider them as such, and the law states that your dog or cat is just a piece of tangible property…no more or no less than your refrigerator.
Who Gets Custody of the Pet?
Unfortunately, some couples may divorce after many years of being together. The pet may have been with this couple for a lot of those years. It doesn’t matter if the cat or dog was purchased, or acquired for one or the other of the couple. The pet has co existed with both of them and has come to love them both.
How can the pet be considered personal property? The refrigerator or stove doesn’t care which one of you get them, but a pet has feelings. The cat or dog is aware of the tension in the house. They hear the arguing and are probably scared. Don’t let them be part of the argument as you decide who gets what.
Many couples think of their pet as children. The pet goes everywhere they go and they both love and cherish the pet. Try to remember that you both love the pet and that the pet loves both of you. If there are children involved in the divorce, you hopefully try to make it easier on them. Give your pet the same consideration.
Don’t Use the Pet as a Pawn in the Divorce
Many couples get spiteful during a divorce. They want a certain thing only because they know the other spouse cherishes it. Don’t use your pet as a pawn to “get even.” Think about what is best for the pet. This shows a sure sign of loving that pet.
If you are moving to a tiny apartment while your spouse stays in a home with a big spacious yard, it is reasonable to assume that the pet will be happier staying where he is. Discuss the situation and try to reach a reasonable agreement that is best for all involved, including the cat or dog.
Plead Your Case to the Judge
Courts are starting to recognize the fact that people care deeply for their pets and consider them part of the family. According to animallaw.info, some judges are setting new precedents in the way that they rule on family pets. Some judges no longer consider pets as tangible property, and are hearing pleas of “joint custody” and visitation rights where pets are concerned.
If the couple cannot agree to “custody” of the pet, the judge may even be willing to make a determination as to what is in the best interest of the pet, much like he or she would do in a child custody situation.
Divorce: Make the Transition Easy for the Pet
The dog or cat will be upset and confused, especially if the pet moves to a new home with only one of his “people.” Make the transition easier for the pet, just as you would a child that is involved. Allow the other spouse to spend time with the pet too, just as you do the children that are involved.
Remember that a divorce not only affects two people, it affects the entire family, including the pets. Loving a pet means you are willing to do what is best for that pet. If it is in the best interest of the pet to stay with the other spouse, then allow this to happen as easily as possible for everyone involved. Don’t hold on to the pet just because you “own” him or her. The pet may not see it that way, and a judge might not either.
Animal Legal and Historical Center