5 Helpful Pet Custody Tips

Today, we treat pets as not just property, but a part of the family. For some they’re even treated as surrogate children! No matter the type of animal, pets hold an important place in their owner’s hearts.

Unfortunately, just as with custody battles over children, fighting over who keeps the pets can get downright nasty once you head into divorce. If you want the best chances of winning a pet custody battle, these five steps from WikiHow are a good place to start:

1.      Keep the best interest of the pet in mind. Although the courts may view your pet as property, you know that your pet has feelings and needs. These should be kept in mind when determining custody. Consider the following:

  • If there are children in the family, it is usually best if the parent who has custody of the children also retains custody of the pet. Divorce is hard enough on the children without them losing their pet as well.
  • Pets require care, attention and love. The spouse with the most flexible schedule, who has the most time to spend with the pet, is usually the best person to take custody.
  • Before deciding you want to keep custody of the pet be sure that you will have the financial means to continue to pay for the pet’s care after the divorce.

2.      Talk with your spouse regarding pet custody to see if you can come to a mutually satisfying agreement.

  • The only way to determine the fate of your pet yourself is to keep it out of the divorce proceedings by agreeing on custody in advance.
  • Although most courts will not address options for sharing the pet, amicable spouses could agree, before getting to court, to share custody of the pet or allow visitation rights for the non-custodial “pet parent.”
  • Have your divorce attorneys draw up paperwork outlining your separation agreement, including ownership and visitation of the pet. Although this may not hold up in a court of law, sometimes having it in writing and signed by both parties makes everyone more likely to stick to the agreement.

3.      Be prepared to compromise if your spouse does not agree to give you custody. Give up property that your spouse wants in exchange for keeping the pet.

4.      Tell your attorney how important custody of your pet is to you. If you do not make this clear to your attorney, she may not realize the pet is a priority when negotiating divorce terms. Some attorneys are not sympathetic to the needs of pets.

5.      Take your claim to court you can’t work it out with your spouse. Turning the fate of custody over to the courts is risky because there are no laws in place to address this issue, so there is no way to predict the outcome. When preparing your case for pet custody consider the following:

  • When the pet joint your family. If you had the pet before you got married you can argue that he is personal, not joint property.
  • Who has been taking primary care of the pet. Consider getting a statement from your vet or ask him to testify in court that you are the spouse who had been bringing the pet for medical care.
  • Who has more time to spend with the pet. Convince the court that you have more time to play with, exercise and care for your pet.
  • Who has more space for the pet. Let the courts know if your pet requires space for play and exercise and your spouse is moving into a small apartment or other dwelling that would not be suitable for the pet.

As with just about every legal battle out there, being prepared and well-documented is critical to winning pet custody cases. In the same vein, seeking out an attorney that knows the specifics of pet law in your area, and is experienced in the field, will boost your chances of success. When the court is all that stands between you and losing your pet, don’t you want the odds on your side?