How Do Pets Affect Custody Battles?

pet dog laying on couch
In this day and age, pets are a very common presence within the family unit. Oftentimes, pets are seen as an extra member of the family, integral as anyone else in the household. So, when the family breaks apart, it’s only natural that people ask: “Who gets the dog?” The fights can be intense, driving many couples to extreme bouts of frustration. However, a new California law seeks to rectify this, giving “pet custody” cases an easier solve.

Pets fall into a very interesting area in divorce court; they aren’t categorized as children, but the technical term “property” doesn’t seem like an apt descriptor for many. California calls pets a “unique” case, thus resulting in the judges using special assessments to rule in these cases.

What Does this Mean for Custody Battles?

California law allows people to petition for custody of their pets. In turn, judges must also begin to consider certain factors when delegating who the pet should go to, such as:

• Who takes the pet to the vet more often?
• Who can better provide for the pet?
• Who is the primary caregiver for this animal?
• Should this family have joint or sole custody over their pet?

So far, few states have implemented this law or similar ones (Alaska and Illinois are among the few who have), but it’s likely that this will be something other states will begin to consider enacting.

How Does This Impact Divorce Proceedings?

Pets can be a very emotional topic for people, especially those in the family unit. In 2014, a survey conducted by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers showed that there was a 22% increase in custody hearings over pets. Fights for ownership of pets are becoming more and more common in courts all over America, a trend that only seems to be increasing as the years continue.

People’s deep emotional attachments to their pets can result in heated arguments over ownership, making the sticky process of divorce even more unpleasant. At Shah & Kishore, we strive to make your separation an amicable one. Although this law has yet to hit Maryland, the question of “who keeps the pet?” is a prevalent one in divorce courts statewide. Reaching out to a Maryland divorce attorney at Shah & Kishore can assist you with your divorce case in helping keep the peace and working closely with you and your family to ensure a smooth separation.

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