In the eyes of state law, animals are often held in the same regard as tangible items, such as vehicles and furniture. However, despite this fact, there is often still a lot of commotion over who gets ownership of the pets following a divorce.

The national pet owners survey found that 63% of households in America own pets, which works out at the staggering number of seventy million. Apparently, a massive forty-four million of those are dogs. Americans spend a huge amount on their pets each year.

What is also significant is the role what pets have assumed over the past few decades. Couples have fewer children than before, and in many cases see pet ownership as equal to having offspring.

This is reflected in the lifestyle upgrade received by a lot of pets, which includes as much pampering as children themselves, such as high-end pet food and even lavish items such as strollers. This increased value of household pets is the reason why pet custody battles seem to have increased.

The final decision between which party receives custody of pets lie with the judge – but much like custody battles of children, this can include factors such as whether pets can even be visited by their ex-spouse.

What Do the Courts Say?

Decisions made by courts have had a lasting effect on pet litigation. Examples where animals are deemed as assets from before marriage can still end up in litigation battles.

However, in some cases, a party may find it difficult to enforce their rights. In events where a party is being disallowed to visit pets on terms set during litigation, courts can deny party’s rights on the basis of court backlog.

Despite custody battles being held with the same weight as children, post-litigation disputes have to deal with the caveat that courts do not view things the same further down the line. The animal defence fund occasionally works with cases and occasionally help enforce a more abstract viewpoint – that the animal is a valid third party.

In these cases, it is requested that animal is treated as what it is – a living being – and not an object. Other determining factors that are considered with this is who spends more time with the pet, who feeds it the most and who looks after its health needs, as well as who introduced it into the relationship (as is the case most times – many people do not start off as a cat couple).

Who Gets the Dog?

There is also the risk that couples that have disputes over pets are not dealing with certain issues that lie deeper at the heart of the affair. It can be argued that someone who chooses to take their old spouse to court over a ‘pet’ may in fact be using the animal as emotional leverage.

In these cases, the pet is being used as a bargaining tool to manipulate the other party. It can also show an emotional deficit in that the pet is the only part of the ‘relationship’ that is still intact. Aside from the difficulties endured by both parties by going through litigation, there is also the consideration that the pet is affected by divorce, too.

In fact, pets can become depressed. They may begin to sleep more, eat much less, and lose interest in otherwise enjoyable activities like playing with either owner. Other risks include alleviating themselves indoors and excessive grooming.

Helping Pets Cope with Divorce

In order to avid having your pet affected by these issues, you should aim to have proceedings resolved as quickly as possible. Factors that should be taken into account include who took care of them the most and who pays for veterinary expenses.

In most cases, pets will go where children go. This is congruent with keeping them in the family home where the environment is familiar and routine not out of the norm. Separating them would be unwise – make sure you play with your pets also, and make sure their needs are looked after.

Coming to a Quick Resolution

In order to avoid your pets becoming greatly affected by divorce proceedings, it is vital that you find a capable divorce lawyer. You can start by finding recommendations for good lawyers that can help your case be resolved as quick as possible.

Arrange interviews with some of the candidates you are interested in. As most of them will give an hour-long consultation at no extra charge, you can find out what their ways are working are. However, when you do arrange a meeting with an attorney, it is useful to ask certain questions to make sure they meet your demands as closely as possible.

Questions you might want to consider are: How experienced is this particular lawyer?  Does he understand family law well enough to represent you? What are his areas of expertise?

Check his track record too. This is a good indication of how he performs in these types of cases. You should also try and get an idea of whom he works with – this will give an indication of the costs involved. And of course, how much he charges, and what for, is very important too. You should make sure you are comfortable with the way he works.

The Right Choice

Taking all these facts into consideration, you can find an attorney who will help you solve your case in the best way possible – and avoid any unnecessary stress with your pet.

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