New divorce issues may now include pet custody and protection, in addition to property division and child custody arrangements. In most states, pets have had the legal status of property and have been handled as such during divorce proceedings in the past. Today, however, judges are recognizing the emotional ties people develop while caring for pets. Many will assign custody of the pet to the partner who receives child custody, which favors and acknowledges the emotional attachments of a child to their pet.
Many childless couples enter into pet custody agreements, where one person has sole custody or the couple share custody. In some rare cases, a protective order may be necessary to prevent a vindictive or angry ex-spouse from causing harm to a loved pet to hurt their former partner.
Extensive pet custody agreements look surprisingly like child custody agreements, and the custody plan may include sharing expenses for food, shelter, care and even end-of-life planning for the pet. For some persons, the pet may somewhat take the place of an ex-partner, providing love and comfort to a lonely divorced person.
With new civil unions, domestic partnerships and childless couple divorces, pet ownership, custody and care are brought into the divorce attorney’s office for fair separation and divorce planning. It is advisable to consider all aspects of divorce when a couple decides that divorce is their best option for a troubled union. Your attorney is the best one to provide direction and counsel with regard to pet custody issues. Be sure to remember the best interests of your pets if your partnership or marriage is headed towards divorce.
The Associated Press: “Child may have an edge when-custody of dog is at stake but who gets dog when it is the child?” Feb. 28, 2012