Divorce is never easy but it is especially complicated when you share responsibility for living creatures with your spouse. There are legal guidelines in place to navigate child custody but what about pet custody? Ever increasingly couples share pets instead of children. This presents a difficult challenge in divorce. Unlike a child, a pet requires less joint decision-making and is therefore more likely to be exclusively in the ownership of one person rather than in a shared arrangement.
Pets are often very important family members and need to be treated accordingly. According to family law attorneys in Connecticut, negotiating pet ownership in divorce is complicated because pets are legally defined as property and the law has not adapted to their increasingly important role in families.
"When parties are fighting over a pet, they don't want to hear that Fido is merely property to be divided like the couches," said Bauer. "For this reason, sometimes we need to be creative with an agreement. I've had parties agree that the family dog would go back and forth with the kids. I've had parties agree on financial contributions for the care of a pet. If an agreement can't be reached, a judge may examine factors such as who owned the pet prior to the marriage, who took care of the pet, and who is in the better position to financially support the pet or care for it."
Navigating pet custody is crucial and can be sensitive if children are involved. Changing family dynamics and living arrangements are stressful enough for children without losing access to their furry friends. Pets are often a source of great comfort and emotional support for children and therefore should be given high priority in negotiating divorce. Pet custody is just another example of the complexities and nuance of navigating a divorce thoughtfully and holistically.