After making the difficult decision to divorce, couples often think about settling big-ticket items like child custody and property division. For those who don’t have children, but love their pets as much as they would children, deciding who gets to keep the animals can be the hard issue to settle. Howard County animal lovers who are contemplating a divorce may want to consider whether collaborative law processes might serve best to resolve pet custody and visitation matters.

First, it’s important to remember that despite how much we may love our animals, they aren’t considered by the law with the same importance as children. Most courts view pets as assets that are subject to property division rules.

Some judges may take which spouse originally possessed the animal or which might provide a better home into consideration, but the simple truth is that most judges won’t even make a decision on the matter of pet custody. Instead, they put the onus back on the divorcing spouses. In such cases, judges expect the couple to reach a mutual decision on who gets to keep the pets.

An exception to the judicial hands-off policy might happen when the animal has particular economic value. An example might be if the animal is a show horse or a champion purebred dog. Even then, judges will make the final determination by considering the animal’s value as part of the couple’s overall assets.

Couples parting amicably and who truly love their pets may be able to work out custody and visitation schedules through collaborative law procedures so that both can keep the pets in their lives. Howard County divorcees who also want to maintain custody of their beloved pets always do well to get the input of an experienced divorce attorney.

Source: DL-Online, “After a divorce or break-up, what happens to the pet?,” Pamela Knudson, Oct. 23, 2012