Often pets become an issue when you separate.
We all love our pets and we consider them part of our family. This can be a difficult issue when you separate from your spouse.
- Who will keep the dog?
- Who will be responsible for daily walks, feeding, vet bills, making health decisions, etc.?
- Will I be able to see my dog if my spouse has the family dog?
These are all important questions and can become a source of additional stress when you separate. A Marital Settlement Agreement can include financial terms and other agreements related to the care of a pet after separation and divorce and whether or not the person who is not caring for the family pet on a daily basis still has visitation rights. You may want to consider who will be responsible for making health care decisions for your dog and whether the vet bills and dog-walking or boarding costs will be shared.
Some people include a shared custody plan in their Agreement much the way you would have a plan for children.
It is important to consider the best interest of your pet and take into consideration the age of your pet and who your pet is most bonded with in addition to considering which person’s schedule is best for walking and caring for your pet. If you have children you want to consider how it will affect them if they are not living with the family dog.
There are many different ways to handle such a situation and it is best to resolve the issue out of court since the court views your pet as property in the same way your furniture is seen as personal property. The court would rather you attempt to resolve the pet custody issue on your own or through negotiations between your attorneys.
You might decide to have your dog transition between homes along with the children, in others, your dog might stay with one person and the other one will have visitation time or is responsible for some of the walks. There are many different ways to work this out.
It is most important to consider your pet’s best interest and to maintain your pet’s daily routine since the stress of the separation can be felt by your dog or cat the same way you and your children may experience varying emotions. Disruption in your pet’s routine can be as difficult for your pet as it is for you to experience the difficulty of a separation.
It is best to discuss this issue with your divorce attorney so you can include any agreed upon provisions in your Separation Agreement (Marital Settlement Agreement) or in a Prenuptial Agreement so you resolve the issue before it becomes a problem.