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An Update On Custody Issues: Including Who Gets "Fluffy"

When a couple ends their marriage, one of the most important decisions to be made is what type of child custody arrangement to make. Where your kids live and how often they visit the other parent helps to shape your children’s future, and give them the security they need to adjust to the new family structure. A question that frequently arises in custody issues, that may seem strange to some, is who gets the family pet? A lot of people become very attached to their pets, and when they get divorced the question of who gets Fluffy can become quite heated.

While there is no specific law on pet custody (like there is for child custody), there are some factors to take into account when deciding where the pets will live. A few factors the Court will look at are which spouse is the primary caretaker for the pet, and who spends the most time with the animal. A Judge will also look at where the kids are living, because many times keeping a pet with a child can be a great comfort during an uncomfortable transition.

If you have more detailed questions on “who gets the pet”, there is actually a Court of Appeals case on the topic. In that case it was made clear an animal is treated the same as property and in a divorce gets awarded to one or the other party. In the Court of Appeals case, the couple was not actually married but was simply dating. In determining who got the dog, the Court considered not only that the dog was legally defined as property, but also took sentimental value into consideration. In this way, the decision on who gets custody of pet is similar to decisions made regarding your children. When a Court decides who gets custody of kids during a divorce, the best interests of the children are the overriding factor for the Court’s consideration. Emotion certainly plays a part in this decision, just as it does when parties fight over a family pet. If you have questions about custody, including custody of a pet, call our office for answers.