The question of who should get custody of family pets has become a larger issue in recent divorces. That is because more and more people own pets than ever before, and as people evolve, so does their love and affection for domestic animals. People think of their pets as part of the family, and in those families where there are no children, they think of their pets as their babies. They love their cats and dogs as if they actually spawned them, or gave birth to them. This is something I intrinsically understand on a personal level.
But when a divorce ensues, just like kids, some people fight over their pets and they are demanding that the court intervene and decide who gets the pet. How does the court determine who gets custody of pets?
Well, first of all, unlike children, there is no statute that deals with the support and care for pets like the CSSA in New York deals with the support and care for children. The court does not view pets as being like children. The court views pets as being more like household furniture – or any other inanimate possession. (Yes, it’s wrong. But that is what it is for now.)
So pets are sort of subject to equitable distribution, almost. Especially if it is a pet that is a show animal that brings in a fee for doing shows. However, they can also be treated like kids in a way. It’s kind of weird. Pets can play a dual role in a custody evaluation. For example, you may have children who are very attached to your pet. The court is likely to give custody of the pet to the parent who gets custody of the children.
If there are no children, then you should be able to demonstrate that you are the primary caregiver for the animal. You are the one who takes it to the vet for its annual check up, you buy the food, you walk it, you groom it, etc. So you may need testimony from the vet, friends, neighbors and the neighborhood bodega owner.
Another alternative is to award joint custody of the pet to both parties. I have heard of this happening where the court determined that the parties should share the animal.
It’s always better if the two of you can come to a rational decision about the pet, though. A court shouldn’t have to decide what happens to these furry little creatures. Just love them, and share them where ever possible. Ok guys?