pet custody and visitation issues

Fighting Over Fido

Pet Custody and Visitation

Families come in all shapes and sizes, and these days the family unit frequently includes pets. In fact, there are more pets in this country than children. But the idea of one spouse getting Fido in the divorce is not usually contemplated by spouses until the other announces that he’s the better parent or she’s the owner. Since pets, like children, can’t be divided in half, the fight over Fido becomes the tipping point that turns a nasty situation into a nightmare. Couples without children initially assume that their divorce will be simple until one party stakes a claim to the family’s furry friends and an otherwise simple case turns into War of the Westies.

Recent lawsuits prove that our animal companions are closer to us than ever before. Our pets come to work with us and go on vacation with us. Our dogs and cats lead lives of luxury, to which they’ve definitely become accustomed. Divorcing couples aren’t the only ones to face courtroom battles over a pet tug-of-war. When unmarried pet parents break up, they’re in for a doggie divorce drama if they can’t reach a pet agreement. They, too, will end up in a court of law, trying to convince a judge who gets Sparky, not to mention who gets the less important items, like the house.

Regardless of whether a couple is married or not, courts are increasingly deciding who will be awarded custody and visitation. Moms and dads of Fluffy and Scruffy are dealing with issues previously encountered only by parents of children. But pet issues are an evolving area of the law, and each state has very different statutes addressing what happens to our companion animals when their parents split. In some states, laws written decades ago still treat pets no differently than a chair or a table; they are considered “stuff” to be divided up. Unfortunately, the law hasn’t caught up yet with modern day notions of how we feel about our pets, and while some judges are sensitive to the notion that a pet is not a couch, others are not.

Most attorneys don’t handle pet issues, but we do. Pets shouldn’t be considered in the same category as tables and chairs. You love and care for your pets, and unlike chairs, they love you back. Most attorneys don’t handle pet issues in divorce and other cases, but we do. We are sensitive to and knowledgeable about pet issues, and are uniquely qualified to represent you in these matters. We negotiate agreements about custody and visitation and litigate these issues in courtrooms. Whether a couple is married or unmarried, preparing for the worst case scenario by laying out in writing what happen if your relationship doesn’t last is as important when it comes to pets, as property. For this reason, prior to or after marriage, we also represent clients regarding pet prenups or pet postnups, so there will be no doubt about what happens to Fido in the future.

Our representation includes every aspect of your family situation, including your pets.