Companion animals become important family members. There's no doubt about that. When you split up with your spouse, dealing with decisions about custody of the children will take precedence over many other issues like splitting property and assets. However, one other important issue that comes up for families is custody of pets. Under the law, companion animals are currently considered to be personal property, but the issues surrounding the custody of pets are complex. Follow these tips to deal with pet custody in a divorce in the best way possible.
Consider the Well-Being of Your Pets
Although you may adore your companion animals, you may not be able to offer them the best possible life if you are moving into a small apartment while your spouse remains in the house that the pets have always inhabited. On the other hand, if you are the close caregiver who your pets rely on for affection and feedings, you may want to pursue custody of your pets regardless of your situation.
Ask for Your Kids' Input
Speak about the custody of the dogs with your children when both parents are present. It's a good idea to do this during a family therapy session, so there is also an extra focus on the well-being of the kids throughout the conversation. If it's a pretty cut and dry decision, such as allowing both the kids and their pets to stay in the main home for full custody, then the decision can simply be expressed. That can be reassuring.
However, if there is a dispute about the custody of the pets, ask for your children to give their opinion on where they want the pets to live. Do your best to not influence the answer in any way. Overall, keep in mind how your children will feel throughout any decisions on pet custody. If there is a way to ease their stress through allowing the kids to spend the most time possible with their pets, that's probably what your lawyers will advise both parties.
Ensure That Your Interests Are Protected
If you haven't already done so, contact a family law attorney like those at Patton Hoversten & Berg PA if you are unsure about how things will proceed with pet custody. Your attorney will help you with all aspects of the divorce, including pet custody, if requested. Make a list of all your questions about pet custody before reaching out to the lawyer, and be sure to disclose all the facts surrounding the pet custody issues before asking for advice.
Finally, prepare yourself for the inevitability that emotions are going to run high when it comes to decisions about beloved companion animals. Try to only make decisions when you are calm, and think twice before saying anything in anger to your spouse about the issue. Take a deep breath and give your lawyer a call before making any definite decisions about pet custody.