Children can complicate any divorce, even if those “children” have fur, feathers or four legs. Like kids, pets can introduce conflicts and force people to make difficult decisions when spouses divorce. However, too many people either oversimplify pet-related issues or overlook their options altogether.
If you are divorcing with a pet, you should know how to protect your companion – and your rights.
What the laws say
Some states have laws addressing pet custody when parties divorce. In these states, courts use standards similar to those regarding child custody to determine what is in an animal’s best interests and establish custody arrangements.
Unfortunately, Washington is not among these states. Here, the laws treat pets more like furniture than family members.
As such, if you cannot reach agreements regarding your pet outside of court, the matter can go before a judge. This person may or may not be sympathetic to the emotional connections between pets and owners; there is no requirement to do so.
With this in mind, deciding on pet custody issues through negotiation and mediation can be in everyone’s best interests.
Tips for resolving these matters yourselves
When you are discussing your options for pet custody, consider a couple of options:
- Sharing custody: If you and your ex are connected to your pet, you could decide to share custody. These arrangements might involve exchanging custody of your pet regularly. You might alternate weeks, divide time between weekdays and weekends or allow the non-primary caretaker to have visitations on a reasonable basis.
- Having the pet stay with one of you: Be realistic about your situation. Is one of you much more connected to your pet? Will one of you have more space or better living arrangements? Do you want to keep your pet with your children? Under these circumstances, staying with one person could be in your pet’s best interests rather than going back and forth.
Whatever you ultimately decide, resolving pet custody issues yourselves versus litigating them can have numerous benefits. Not only can it save you time and money, but it can also allow you to reach more creative arrangements that best fit your needs and the needs of your pet.