There are plenty of divorces on file across the United States where childless couples have favorite pets in place of children. As odd as it may seem, these couples sue for pet custody and legal rights to the animals. Some judges tolerate this idea, understanding that people treat their pets as family members. If you intend to enter into a divorce and want to keep your animals, you will have to hire a divorce lawyer who can work with you on that. The deciding factors are closely tied to the same ones most courts use to determine who would get the children, if there were any.
Pets Go with the "Parent" Who Can Afford Them
If you were sitting in a court of law for animals and the ASPCA was presiding over the judicial process, the decision would be to give the pets to the person who can afford to take care of them. Although the ASPCA does not act as judge or jury, the general idea of such a ruling remains the same. A judge in divorce court will award the pets to the person who can feed them, take them to the vet, and provide for any medical care the animals will need. If you have not contributed to the care of your shared animals with your own money in the past, you probably will not be the judge's first choice.
Pets, Like Children, Are Protected
Previous signs of abuse or neglect mean that that "parent" will not be allowed to keep the pets in the divorce. There are just as many laws protecting pets and animals as there are protecting human children, so if you can prove that your spouse is less likely to feed and water the pets or more likely to kick the dogs frequently, you have a better chance of getting the pets in the divorce.
Pet Visitation Rights
It is uncommon for a judge to set up a visitation schedule for pets, but if you and your spouse are quite vehement about keeping the animals, and neither of you are a lesser choice for the animals' care, the judge may just set up a schedule. Often, this resembles a child visitation schedule, with pet parents taking the animals for visits on weekends or spending one month with one parent and one month with another. Dogs are not too stressed with this situation, but cats are a different matter. Caged pets will have no issues, but the legal fights in divorce court are often over dogs and cats.
For more information about how a divorce lawyer can help you get the most out of the proceedings, contact a professional such as Dianna Harris, Attorney.