When parents get a divorce, they typically hire an attorney and go to court to create a joint custody agreement. Unfortunately for pet owners, there isn’t as much legal advice available to determine who gets to keep their furry friends in the event of a breakup.
In May, New York Post reported that Brooklyn resident, Craig Dershowitz, spent approximately $60,000 in a custody battle over his dog with his ex-girlfriend. Dershowitz claimed his ex kidnapped his dog, Knuckles, and moved him to California with her, but believes he is the dog’s rightful owner.
According to the Michigan State College of Law, pets are seen as property in the eyes of the law, so in most cases a judge must award full ownership to one pet parent, instead of granting joint custody to both.
Recently though, things have started to change and some judges are now willing to treat animal ownership situations more like child custody cases and make a decision based on the best interest of the pet. If the judge reviews the case and determines it’s in the pet’s best interest to create a joint custody agreement with the owners, they will then be legally required to share the animal.
Tips to Create a Joint Custody Agreement for Your Pet
Exes can follow these tips from Business Insider to create an amicable joint custody agreement to care for their pet together, without ever having to seek legal advice:
- Determine the Legal Owner: Your pet is (or at least should be) registered with the city, and one of you is responsible for renewing its license each year. If you take the custody issue to court, the judge will likely want to see this document, and will grant legal custody to the person whose name is on the license.
- Create a Firm Custody Agreement: Much like in a child custody case, it’s a good idea to come up with a plan to share your pet and stick to it. Sticking to a regular schedule helps everyone to get used to the arrangement and form a routine.
- Decide if Pet Support is Needed: Just as divorced parents come up with a child support arrangement, pet owners may also need to create a plan to share the living expenses for the animal. Many different options can be explored such as splitting costs down the middle, or the primary caregiver getting a monthly stipend from the other owner to help pay for the pet’s living expenses.
- Agree on a Diet Plan: It’s important for a pet’s diet to be consistent, regardless of which owner’s house it’s spending the night at. Both parents should agree to serve the pet the same type of food, to help it maintain a steady diet. Otherwise the pet might refuse to eat at one house, because they like the brand of food the other one serves better.
- Create a Plan for Medical Care: Create a plan in advance to handle the situation if your pet needs medical care. Decide how important medical decisions will be made and how corresponding bills for treatment and medicine will be paid.
Author: Laura Jerpi