Our pets are an integral part of our family. Often we get them with a loved one as we begin the journey together and they are the start to building a family. But what if things don’t work out between us humans? Who gets custody of the pets?
It’s hard to think about a failed a marriage or relationship ending. It can get complex when dividing up money, property and untangling from a former loved one, but if you don’t have a plan in place for that possibility that includes your pets, you may also end up losing your beloved furry friend.
Here are some things you can do if you’re involved in a pet custody battle.
Get a lawyer - Seek the counsel of an attorney who can advise you as to a strategic approach for a resolution that serves the best interests of the animal concerned.
Show proof of ownership - Since animals are considered property in the eyes of the law, it may be helpful to offer proof that you were the one who adopted the animal, or if the animal was purchased, that you were the one who purchased the animal.
Prove you're the caregiver - If you were not the one who originally brought the animal home, you can substantiate your claims of being primary caregiver of the animal by showing receipts for veterinary care, licensing records, receipts for grooming, dog training classes, food, and other items purchased for your pet..
Enlist help - If your neighbors saw that you were always the one who walked your dog or took him/her to the park, they may be useful witnesses who can confirm your consistent interaction with the animal and therefore be helpful to your case.
Over the course of the past few years, a handful of judges have begun contemplating the “best interests” of the pets when deciding a custody dispute. There are also a few state legislators floating the idea of changing the law to require consideration the pet's’ best interests when determining custody. Sweeping changes in the law, however, often take many years. In the meantime, it is up to responsible pet parents everywhere to work out custody issues ahead of time.
So before you find yourself in situation where custody of your pet has to be determined by a judge, you can consider a pet agreement: