Divorce is a difficult time for everyone involved. When it comes to splitting up a household, it can be difficult to decide who keeps what. Even harder is the decision on who gets custody of the kids. Recently, family courts are getting more divorce cases where there’s a question of who gets the pets in divorce settlements. This is making it necessary to take a harder look at the role pets play in a family and how the pet’s best interest can be served during this difficult time.
Pets In Divorce Settlements: Pets As Property
Traditionally, the court system has looked at pets as property. When the question of who gets the family pet comes up, the court will put a dollar value on the pet. This often results in one person getting awarded the family pet and the other partner getting something of equal monetary value.
The “value” of the pet is determined by:
- Who can prove they paid vet bills.
- Which name is on the license.
- Who takes care of the pet most often.
As the world becomes more aware of the importance of animals, some courts are starting to change their views somewhat, but there are some things that a couple can do to help make the process easier fro everyone.
As more courts start considering pets as family members, some of the same things that determine child custody are being used to determine pet custody. The judge may take into consideration such factors as who brought the pet into the family, who is able to give it more time and attention and who the pet is most attached to. In essence, he will try to determine the best interest of the pet, but this is also a situation that may not be easy to determine.
Couples who are considering a divorce often take the time to sit down with a lawyer and discuss things. If an agreement can be reached between the two people involved, custody issues may be resolved without the case having to go to court.
Let’s look at what can be included in a divorce agreement:
- Basic custody of pets – Will it be best for your pet to have the consistency of staying in one home and having visitation from the non-custodial person? Would shared custody be better? Set forth who gets what time with the pet. Having it in writing will make it more enforceable if there ends up being conflict.
- Finances – How will vet bills be paid? Will one partner have sole responsibility or will you share the cost? Is there a way you can arrange some kind of pet fund that will make it easier to pay vet bills if the other partner is unavailable?
- Attachment – Did one partner bring the pet into the marriage, to begin with? Is there one partner who benefits psychologically from having the pet around? Does the pet prefer one partner over the other? All these answers can determine who has the greatest psychological investment and this is something that needs to be considered in who gets the pets in divorce settlements.
Any custody arrangement works best when two partners can come to an agreement that is best for the children. This holds true for pets as well. Until such a time when the courts fully embrace the concept of pets as part of a family, sitting with a lawyer to discuss custody arrangements for your family pet is the next best thing.