When a couple gets divorced, and children are involved, there are often custody issues that come into the courtroom. In addition to matters relating to children, parties must separate property as well as other assets. This brings up an interesting issue that has been more and more prevalent over the last few years: What happens to the family pet?
One main question when trying to figure out what happens to little Fido is whether he is considered to be a member of the family or personal property. Up until recently, pets were always considered property, at least, in the eyes of the law. However, with increased divorce rates and more people owning pets than before, “pet custody has become a stickier issue when couples split up.”
Since this is a fairly new issue for the court system, some animal rights organizations have stepped up to offer guidance. For example, the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) has offered this comment: “Although animals are considered property in the eyes of the law at this time, some courts are beginning to recognize that one’s relationship with this particular form of property known as the family cat, dog, bird etc., is much different from one’s relationship with other forms of property such as your couch, your watch or your coffee pot.”
So, with these new trends, courts that have considered changing their policies when it comes to pet custody, are encouraged to consider the following:
- Who has the greatest ability to financially provide for and support the pet?
- Who takes the pet to the veterinarian?
- Which party takes care of the pet’s basic needs (i.e., food, shelter, exercise, grooming, etc)?
- If applicable, which party makes sure the pet is able to interact with other animals?
It’s important for parties to keep in mind that the ideal situation would be one where the pet’s normal, day-to-day activities are not altered too much, since that can impact the pet’s well-being. There is also the option that each party shares custody and transfers the pet back and forth between them. However, in some cases, distance, or other circumstances, make the shared custody option impossible.
One celebrity couple is currently dealing with the issue: Melanie Griffith and Antonio Banderas recently filed for divorce and are faced with the tough question as to who will get custody of their three dogs. While their youngest child will soon be turning 18, the custody focus is definitely on their pets.
So, while laws may be changing in the future, experts in this area recommend that you work out an agreement that both are content with and include the provisions in the settlement agreement. Another way to avoid a potential problem is including a related stipulation in a prenuptial agreement that would speak to ownership in the event of a divorce.
If you are seeking counsel for your divorce or other family law matter, do not hesitate to contact our Las Vegas family law attorneys at 702 DEFENSE. We are available for a free, initial consultation in order to discuss the facts of your case.