When a couple decides to divorce, a number of decisions about divisions of assets and custody come into play. However, many are unsure what to do when it comes to their pets. In many states, pets are considered property and are to be divided in the same way other belongings are dealt with. However, a family law attorney is often tasked with assisting divorced couples when deciding who gets the family pet. The following tips can be helpful when dealing with this type of situation:
Check the Paperwork
If the animal in question is a dog, their paperwork will determine who gets custody. Dogs that are registered with the AKC will list the name of the owners of the dog, which can provide a compelling case for who actually owns it. Veterinary records can also have an impact. If the dog was purchased prior to marriage, it can be argued that the actual owner is the person who can provide evidence of payment for the dog to the breeder. Be sure to submit copies of the purchase contract, proof of payment, and any other documents to the family law attorney in order to prove ownership.
Consider a Custodial Plan
For some couples, pets are considered family. Much like children are shared through a custody arrangement, the same can be done for family animals. Although animals are considered a piece of property, there is nothing that states that divorced couples cannot make arrangements with the family law attorney to share custody. In family court, any reasonable arrangements that are agreed upon by all parties can be enforceable, even if it is for animals. For families with children, it is often ideal to exchange custody of both animals and children on the same schedule.
If a custody arrangement is in order, make sure to have all details worked out in advance. This includes the maintenance of the animal and who will pay for treatments, vet appointments, and any other costs associated with its care. The age of the dog or cat is also something to take into consideration. Important conversations and decisions will need to occur regarding how to handle any situations that may require expensive treatment versus euthanasia.
Remain Composed and Compassionate
Although a divorce can be a tumultuous time in the life of a family, remaining compassionate and composed is very important. It is likely that both spouses have formed a bond with the dog or cat and it has also formed an attachment. An animal is an important member of the family, and it is important to take its needs into consideration. It is important to remember that sacrifice is part of a breakup, which also means some give and take will have to take place in order to put everyone’s best interest first.
Dealing with sharing a pet does not have to be a laborious ordeal. A family law attorney can advise couples on an ideal situation and provide documentation of any arrangements made so that there is no confusion in the future.