When it comes to the big issues – the cars, the homes, even the kids – divorce is a messy thing. But you’d be surprised just how messy a divorce can be even when it comes down to fighting over something relatively simple, like who gets custody of which pets. In some cases, one spouse might be more attached to the pets than the other and the issue is resolved simply – but for many couples, things aren’t so easy.
If you want to make sure you keep your pets’ company after a divorce, here are just a few things you must know:
Pet custody can be hotly contested. When you begin a divorce, it’s tempting to believe that you’ll receive the benevolence of your spouse simply because you always viewed yourself as being more attached to the pets. But the ferocity of pet custody contests might just surprise you. After all, if your relationship has disintegrated to the point of divorce, it might follow that you really didn’t know how attached your spouse is to the pets – or simply how much they want you not to have them. It sounds outrageous, but it happens often.
Shared custody is one possible outcome. Chances are you’ve already researched a lot about shared child custody – when the children spend time with you, and when they don’t – but it may surprise you to learn that shared custody can happen for pets, as well. This is especially true if the pet custody issue is a hotly contested one, as mentioned above, and the two sides are unable to come to a complete resolution. The only option at that point may be simply to split the difference and share the pets.
Pet custody is often about negotiation, not a court decision. While courts may get involved in order to resolve the profound disputes over child custody, many courts leave it to the couples themselves to decide what to do about the pets. This means that if you want custody of your pets, you’re going to need to somehow convince your spouse to allow this to happen as part of the divorce arrangement.
Custody can depend on ownership before marriage. If you two purchased or adopted pets during your marriage, it may make the issue of who gets the pets a little more muddy. But if a pet was already owned by one party before the marriage, it may make it more likely that that same party will retain custody after the marriage is legally dissolved.
Lawyers can help negotiate. With the courts generally staying out of the pet custody battle, one role of your divorce lawyer will be to negotiate a pet custody arrangement between you and the other party. A good divorce lawyer will be able to move things around in the arrangement in order to make a proposal the other party will accept; a great divorce lawyer might just be able to get you a little bit of everything.