Under the law, pets are considered objects that are owned by either party. However, for many people, their dog or cat is more akin to a child than an object or chattel. During mediation, we often have discussions with clients about their pets. While most opt for one party or the other to own the pet outright, it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary for clients to share “custody” of their beloved pet.
Best Interest of the Animal
It may sound silly to some, but courts have now begun to establish a “best interest” analysis for pet custody, just like minor children. Considerations on the pet’s interest include how long an owner would leave the pet at home unattended, work trips, child’s school schedule, and much more. In mediation, we discuss schedules, and who could adequately take care of the pet and when. If one party is stuck at work all day and the dog would be restrained to the kennel for more than eight hours, it would make sense to be with the other party on those days.
Balancing Pet’s Interests and Your Own
There is a big balance between making sure the parties split time with their favorite pet and also maintain needed space from each other. That can be a hard balance to achieve for some divorcing couples. When discussing who gets the pet, consider if visitation is something you even want to approach. It may be too hard to maintain that type of contact with your ex, especially if you are not co-parenting children.