Pet custody in a divorce was not unlike the all too familiar division of property, splitting up the furniture and deciding who gets the car. For some couples, things got significantly more challenging when it came to deciding what happens to the family pets. If you are besieged with this issue, a local divorce attorney can help.
Pet Custody Previous to This Law
In the past, pets have been considered property, to be given to one party in exchange for something of equivalent value. That has been markedly dissatisfying to many divorcing couples as well as to attorneys and judges who have witnessed the emotional strings that are attached to many animals who are truly considered part of the family. One attorney noted that clients have spent thousands of dollars trying to secure a beloved pet, with one woman spending more than $30,000 in a legal battle for custody. The fact of the matter is, judges have struggled with making the right decision in these circumstances, as well.
Methods to Determine Pet Custody
Some of the strategies used in court illuminate just how difficult this decision can be. Some of the ways judges have approached the decision include:
- Putting the pet in between the divorcing spouses to see which person the pet prefers;
- If there are two pets, splitting them up and giving one to each partner;
- Assigning custody arrangements by alternating weeks or months;
- One person is assigned custody, and the other is given visitation privileges;
Pet Custody and Impacts on the Pet
Divorce can be very stressful, and not just for the humans involved. Animal advocates point out that significant changes can take a toll on any pet’s well-being, leading to depression and other signs of anxiety, including:
- Excessive sleeping;
- Declining appetite;
- No interest in the usual daily activities, like taking walks;
- Unusual whimpers or cries;
- Having accidents indoors;
- Unusual grooming, licking, or self-biting.
Assembly Bill 2274, recently signed into law, takes more factors into account than previous law, which viewed the pet based on its financial value. Now, the animal’s well being, as well as issues related to the care of the animal, will be weighed. Is the animal bonded to children? If so, it may go where the kids go. Are there multiple pets in the home? Are they bonded to one another? What would the impact of splitting them up be? Who was responsible for the feeding, grooming, and general care of the pet? Who took the animal to the vet? Who has the financial and time resources to provide continued care for the pet? All of these factors may be considered as the pet’s ultimate location is determined. Continue reading →