What to do with a family pet during a divorce can seem like a minor concern when compared to asset division and child custody. However, people develop strong bonds with their pets, who become an essential part of the family.
According to Kiplinger, deciding who gets the pet is extremely contentious in many divorces. This guide explains how you can navigate this delicate issue to the best of your ability.
Pets as property vs. the best interest of the pet
Many courts view pets as a form of personal property. That means whoever can establish ownership through bills of sale, adoption papers, or veterinary costs, is the legal owner of the pet in court. While straightforward, pets as property ignores the strong emotional bonds part and parcel to pet ownership.
That is why some courts are now considering the best interest of the pet at the center of the dispute. For example, a judge might hesitate to award custody of an elderly dog or cat if that means a change of living situation.
How to develop a pet custody arrangement
Regardless of the legal stance taken where you live, your best bet is to work out an arrangement with your ex. If you would like to share custody, develop a detailed agreement that specifies the terms. The agreement should include dates and times when you or your spouse will have custody of the pet. It should also include dispute resolutions options, such as mediation.
As with all difficult divorce decisions, civility is key. Try to see the matter from your ex-spouse's perspective and make concessions with you can. By doing so, your chance of coming to an agreement that is amenable to everyone, including your pet, is far greater.