By Steven J. Mandel
The legal, emotional, psychological, financial, and familial challenges divorce brings to an individual and a family is not only immense, but they are also long-lasting and widespread. One area of life that divorce impacts, in a shocking way, is pet parenting.
Pets are a joyful part of life, and often times a couple in the midst of a divorce may fail to realize how complicated the joy of pet parenting will be when deciding who will get to be the custodial “parent” of the beloved pet.
To most people, pets are more than property, they’re members of the family. However, in the eyes of the law, pets are treated as a possession, much like a car or piece of furniture. When judges have written on this topic, many have acknowledged the important role pets play in our lives. That being said, courts are currently unwilling to put animals in the same category as children, and as such do not make determinations based upon the best interest of the pet.
Pet custody cases are extremely difficult because of the emotional components. Sometimes a pet may be given as a gift to soften the blow of an unfortunate event. In this instance, the connection between a party and the pet may be wrapped up in several other emotional factors.
Here are some tips to take into consideration to avoid as many headaches as possible in a pet custody dispute:
- Consider finding an attorney to help negotiate a pet custody agreement as soon as the animal is brought into your home.
- Take time to document how the pet joined your family. Did you or spouse adopt it? Was it purchased from a pet store? Whose name is on the bill of sale, adoption papers and license? Who is primarily responsible for taking the animal to the vet or groomer and paying all the related expenses? Who spends the most time with the pet and is primarily responsible for the animal’s day-to-day care?
- Take into consideration the best living arrangement for the pet. If one parent has primary custody of the children, how will that play a role? If one pet parent lives in an apartment in a city and the other in a house in the suburbs, will that matter?
While the courts may not currently recognize the pet’s best interest, pet parents should take this into consideration when determining where this furry family member should end up after a divorce.
About Steven J. Mandel
Steven J. Mandel is a New York family and divorce attorney who was selected as a “Top 100 Lawyer in the United States,” a “Super Lawyer” and the co-chair of the New York County Bar Association’s Matrimonial Section. For almost 40 years, people have been coming to Steve when losing for them is not an option. To learn more, visit The Mandel Law Firm or give the firm a call at (646) 770-3868.