Dogs and cats are beloved members of the family but in almost all states, they are considered property, just like a couch. How do you decide who gets the pet or how to share custody? Here are several points to consider:
- If you have kids, considered having the pet follow the same custody as the kids. Having the pet to snuggle with for emotional support can help kids get through a tough time. However, that will call for additional logistics since often, custody is exchanged by dropping off and picking up kids at school. If this is the case, you may consider whether it might be better to leave the pet with the parent that has the most custody time.
- Who will pay for veterinary care? Spouses might have differing ideas on what is proper veterinary care. For instance one might think regular teeth cleaning is standard while the other might think that’s over the top. In this case, the person willing to pay for veterinary care might have more leverage as far as custody.
- What is in the best interests of the pet? Who has a better schedule to tend to the pets potty schedule and exercise needs? Is the pet attached to one spouse in particular?
- Who has historically tended to feeding, grooming, veterinary care, and training? If it’s one spouse in particular, it seems only fair that the person who has put in the most “sweat equity” should get custody of the pet.
- Is your pet pretty flexible when it comes to a change in surroundings or does that cause major stress and anxiety? If your pet is one that won’t do well in a move, consider what is best for the pet and leave the pet in its present home.
- If there are two or more pets, consider splitting the pets. This might not work and isn’t fair to the pets if they are very attached to each other. In other cases, pets are happier when they are the only child.
- Particularly if the pet cost a substantial amount of money, as some designer breeds do, consider exchanging the pet for an amount of money equal to the cost of a new puppy or kitten.
Asking to keep a pet just to “spite” your ex might land you court and litigating cost lots of money. Some judges sympathize with how the parties feel about their pet but other judges feel that it a completely waste of their time. Settle this matter out of court and whatever is decided, put the needs of the pet ahead of your own needs. Remember that divorce is emotionally hard on your pet as well.