Divorce is hard, no matter the circumstances. If you have a beloved pet the entire family loves, the entire situation can become that much more difficult, as you do not know which one of you will take the pet. In some families, splitting time with the family pet is almost as important as any other part of the divorce process. When it comes to how you will share time with your family pet, consider the following:
Who Owns the Pet?
One thing to consider is who actually owns the pet. If you and your spouse are not amicable and cannot agree on who actually owns the pet, and therefore has ownership, you need to refer to the paperwork you received when you got your pet. Pets are property under the law, and the rightful owner has the final say as to who gets to spend time with the pet. The best way to establish ownership is to look at your paperwork. When you purchase a pet from a breeder or adopt a pet from a shelter, you should receive paperwork naming the owner of the pet. If your name is on the paperwork and not your spouse, you have control over how much time you will share the pet with your spouse, if any at all. Your paperwork will be your evidence of ownership should you have to show it in court.
Can You Share Custody of a Pet?
There is no way to set up a legal custody arrangement for a pet. However, you can set up your own form of custody arrangement between you. If you have children, for example, you can exchange the pet at the same time you exchange the children. This way, the pet is always with the kids, adding some much-needed consistency and joy in their lives. However, you need to factor costs into this arrangement. Work out how you both will pay for veterinary bills, food, medication, and the like.
What About the Well-Being of the Pet?
Divorce is not only hard on humans but pets as well. You should never use your pet as a bargaining chip or as a way to spite your spouse. Pets bond with people much in the way humans bond with each other. A divorce can cause stress for a pet, especially with the constant change of scenery and possibly new people in their home. You should both have as much compassion for the animal to ensure it remains healthy and happy.
You can discuss the matter further with your personal family law attorney.