Our pets are our family members, there is no question about it. They provide unconditional love and emotional support during difficult times. If you are a pet owner considering divorce, you are probably worried about who will obtain custody of your pet. You may also have children who want to remain with their pets during the family transition. In most states, pets are treated as property and subject to the same laws as other property during a divorce.
Pet ownership is unfortunately often a point of high contention during divorce. Bitter, soon to be ex-spouses may try and make a full-fledged custody battle over your beloved pet as a bargaining chip to manipulate you during the divorce process. Although we understand that it is not always easy coming to an agreement, you and your spouse should come together to craft a written agreement on who will retain custody of the pet. It is always better to come to an agreement than to leave the decision in the hands of a judge. Courts are extremely unlikely to overrule or reject an agreement between exes as to who will retain ownership of the pet.
There are many options for drafting agreements relating to pets. It need not be that one spouse or the other obtains full ownership of the pets. You may want to share ownership of the pet, perhaps deciding that the pet stays with the children. For example, one spouse has custody of the pets and the children Monday through Friday, and the other parent has custody on the weekends.
Another thing to think about is determining who will cover pet related expenses. These include pet food, vaccines, veterinary expenses, licenses, pet sitters, boarding during travel, and training classes. Sharing half of the expenses is reasonable if the pet is to be shared between divorcing partners. However, if one spouse makes significantly more money than the other, or one will own the pet most of the time, you may want to negotiate a different split relating to expenses.
If a pet becomes gravely sick, who determines whether the pet should receive treatment or be humanely euthanized? This should all be spelled out in advance to avoid disagreements down the road. You may also want to include provisions discussing what will happen if one parent can no longer be responsible for the pet. For example, if one spouse remarries a person with severe pet allergies.
If you are unable to come to an agreement with your spouse, the court will consider whether one partner had ownership of the pet prior to the marriage. If your spouse brought the pet into the marriage, they may be more likely to obtain custody, even if you were the primary caretaker of the pet during the marriage. However, a court will not set up visitation or custody. Unfortunately, despite people’s connection with their pets, the law only treats a pet like any other piece of property, and will simply grant it to one party or the other. Thus, if you want some other arrangement, the parties will need to reach an agreement.
Towson Divorce Lawyers at Huesman, Jones and Miles, LLC Help Clients Through All Types of Custody Cases
At Huesman, Jones & Miles, LLC, we understand how important your pets are to you and your family. To learn more about how we can help, contact us today by calling 443-589-0150 or by filling out our convenient online contact form for a free consultation. Our divorce lawyers in Towson routinely handle issues relating to custody cases during divorce, and are ready to help you begin a new and better future. With offices in Hunt Valley and Towson, Maryland, we proudly serve clients throughout the state.