Dealing with pets during divorce

On behalf of The Walters Law Group, Ltd. posted in Divorce on Friday, March 7, 2014.

Illinois couples who have decided to call it quits may anticipate a battle ahead regarding their marital home and retirement accounts. However, they may not be prepared to fight over their dog or cat. According to a recent survey by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, 27 percent of family law professionals have reported an increase in cases involving pet disputes over the last five years.

In some cases, the issue is who will have “custody” of the pet. The survey disclosed that 22 percent of attorneys have seen custody of the family pet dealt with in court. Approximately 88 percent of the cases involve dogs, with cats and then horses following in second and third place. Some pet owners may initiate disputes over a pet as a negotiating strategy, using the pet as a bargaining chip for another asset they want more.

Because many couples realize that courts will treat their pet just like any other piece of property, they may make agreements outside of court pertaining to the animals. Some individuals who are particularly attached to the family dog or cat may opt to give up another asset in order to acquire rights to the family pet. Other disputes center around the financial costs associated with caring for the animal. These expenses can be high in some cases, such as paying for boarding for horses or day care for pets that have to be cared for while both parties work.

Individuals who anticipate a challenge to their rights regarding their pet may decide to discuss their case with an attorney. A lawyer experienced in family law may be able to represent one of the spouses in a settlement negotiation to work out a fair and equitable solution.

Source: MainStreet, “Pet Custody Battles on the Rise in Divorce Court“, Juliette Fairley, February 21, 2014