Today many people understand that divorce can degenerate into a dog fight. But it seems that these days were talking literally and it's possible that Fluffy or Rover could be part of a custody battle. Many people who are going through a divorce are not only sorting out who gets the house and car and primary custody of the kids, they're also having to come to terms with who gets the to keep the family pet.
Recent stats show that family law attorneys have seen a 23 percent jump in pet custody cases. Harvard even has a course teaching animal law. Issues can range from visitation rights to how vet bills are split. Another consideration is how long treatment should be kept to maintain life before putting an animal to sleep. But the biggest battles involve which spouse gets custody.
There are plenty of celebrity cases that illustrate this point. Britney Spears and Kevin Federline battled over their pups. Drew Barrymore demanded custody of her lab, Flossie, while Jon Gosselin lost custody of Shoka and Nala, his two German shepherds. However, he got joint custody of his eight kids.
Pets used to be viewed as property, like a sofa or piece of jewelry, and whoever bought it got it. But now courts realize that pets are members of the family and their best interests are being considered. Many pet owners freely admit that their pets are substitute children and divorce settlements are having to take into account the welfare of our four-legged friends. There is even case where a judge has ruled that a divorcing couple accept joint custody of their dog - spending six months of the year with each former spouse.
What happens to the family pet could literally make or break a divorce settlement. Often, former couples have settled the residency of the children, they've settled the finances, the antiques and the paintings, the cars and the holiday homes, and then they fight over the pet - and one of them says 'the whole deal is off, we're going to court'.
While one parent may have primary custody of the children and the pets, keep in mind that many kids often bring their pets while they visit the other parent as a comforting form of continuity. But in the heat of a divorce battle, many spouses forget that they will see their beloved pet even if it's only when the kids visit.
If you're going through a divorce or considering one, please don't hesitate to get the right advice. I offer a free initial consultation where you can get all your questions answered.