My fiance and I used to joke about who would get custody of our dog if we were to break up. Now that we’re engaged with two dogs, it’s not really all that funny of a joke but nonetheless my stance remains the same: I get full custody. Joking! In reality, custody cases involving pets are on the rise across the country and have increased noticeably since 2001.
The increase in pet custody cases is due in part because there are now break-ups in same-sex marriages, civil unions and domestic partnerships. Another reason though is that pets are no longer viewed as “property” in a divorce and judges are recognizing the emotional attachment people have to their pets. People aren’t embarrassed to fight it out for their cats and dogs in court. There’s even a book about co-parenting a pet with an ex titled What About Wally?. Naturally, it is written by a lawyer and his former client for whom he handled a pet custody case.
There are no laws about pet visitation so it is often up to the couple to work out an arrangement. Just like any divorce or breakup, it can be amicable or it can be ugly. Check out “Kramer vs. Kramer: Pet Custody” for some general pet custody guidelines.