Divorce is always tough for everyone involved – including your beloved four-legged friend. For most families, pets are like children. Losing your pooch along with your spouse may tear your heart out. This is why you may be willing to fight for your furbaby. The only problem may be that your spouse wants the very same thing. Of course, you are willing to share your Fido if you have to. But, is pet custody a thing? Yes, it is! (1)
Pet Custody And The Law
Traditionally the law held pets as properties. However, some judges started to disagree. Although even these days animals are still considered as properties in the eyes of the law, some courts have started to recognize the relationship between pets and their pet parents. This relationship is much different from relationships with other forms of property such as the TV, living room furniture, or even the special occasion dishes Aunt Mildred gave you as a wedding present. It is most likely because of this special bond that some state legislatures are beginning to change divorce laws when it comes to pet custody.
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Both Alaska and Illinois passed legislation to allow guidance to courts during the divorce process in 2016 and 2017 respectively. This means the judge can decide who gets the pet. They make the decision regarding the well-being, the care of companion, or the interest of the pooch. On January 1st, 2019 California joined as the third state to pass similar legislation. (2, 3, 4)
What To Do If You Want Pet Custody
If you live in Alaska, California, or Illinois, getting pet custody in the case of divorce is easier for you. In these states, the courts are allowed to grant joint custody or joint possession of your furry friend to both of you and your spouse. This means you are able to share your beloved friend and you don’t have to win or lose your pet forever.
However, even though the law in these states allows joint custody of a pet, in the case that either pet parent wants to become the sole legal owner, they have some extra work to do. They still have to prove that the beloved pet belongs to them and that they will take care of the furbaby better than the other half could.
There are factors the judge uses when deciding who gets the pet in a divorce. These may include:
- Who bought or adopted the pet?
- Who usually feeds the pet?
- Who protects the pet?
- Who walks the pet more often?
- Who usually takes the pet to the vet?
- Who purchases food, toys, and other things to the pet?
- Who spends more time with the pet?
- Have there been allegations of domestic abuse toward the pet?
The answers to these questions help the judges to disclose which spouse better suited to be the sole pet parent.
Nonetheless, if you live in those states that still categorize pets as property, the process differs. If you and your spouse make arrangements about sharing your pet, the judge mostly allows you to make such an agreement that fits the best for both of you. Although, if you and your spouse can’t make the right choice on your own, the process thickens. (5)
What’s In Your Pet’s Best Interest?
Loosing your beloved furbaby in a divorce can be heartbreaking. Before you start to fight for pet custody, think about what could be best for your beloved Fido. If you are unable to take care of your pooch after the divorce on your own, don’t fight for him. If you have no time, money, or space, but the other half does, then let your spouse keep the pet.
Making this decision might be hard, and it can hurt a lot. And you may leave the situation feeling defeated and like it isn’t fair. But, if you truly love your furbaby, you should think about what’s best for him. Sometimes, doing the right thing is different from what you really want.
Even if both spouses agree to share custody, there are some instances where this could be detrimental to the pet in question. If your pet is anxious, old, or sick, for example, then taking him from one home to another every week is definitely not a good idea. In this situation, you will only make your beloved pet suffer during the separation from your spouse.
Divorce is always hard for everyone, even your furry best friend. However, you will still have to take good care of your beloved pet during this challenging time. Dogs feel the anger and the stress you feel. Make sure to give your pooch lots of love and extra attention and maybe even a few extra treats!