One of many complications of the divorce process is often overlooked—who gets the pets? For couples, especially those without children, determining who gets to keep the family dog or cat can be as difficult and emotional as a traditional custody battle. However, according to an article posted by The Huffington Post, in standard divorce law, pets are not treated with the same special considerations afforded children.
Pets are typically treated as marital property, and can be divided as such. Determining a pet co-parentingplan, for example, is not something that would be hashed out in court the same way it would be for children, no matter how close an individual and his or her ex-spouse are with the animal.
The Huffington Post suggests that you and your ex-spouse try to be civil enough to brainstorm a pet parenting plan before the divorce is final. This would include scheduling regular visitation times, determining who would travel for visitation, and deciding financial issues—pet alimony—such as veterinarian costs, food and training. Though it may seem a simple enough informal agreement, TheHuffington Post encourages all divorcees to make sure that the pet parenting plan is a formal written agreement. If you and your spouse have a formal written agreement signed by both parties, this can take the place of a court order that would normally determine a child custody agreement.
The Animal Legal & Historical Center at Michigan State University reports that some courts are beginning to change the way they treat pet custody. However, no specific delineations have been made as of yet to determine “which relationships and which species should qualify for protection.”
There are other rumblings of changes beginning to happen in regards to pet custody and divorce as well. According to USA Today, the issue of pet custody is increasingly being discussed in prenuptial agreements—known colloquially as “pre-pups.” This is not surprising, notes USA Today, given that there are more than 175 million cats and dogs living in American homes.
If you or someone you know is facing a divorce and pet custody battle, do not go through it alone. Contact a DuPage County divorce attorney for a consultation today.