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Divorce and the Family Pets

 Posted on January 20, 2017 in Division of Property

DuPage County divorce lawyersMaybe he is your best hunting companion, spending countless hours together in the woods or tracking game. Maybe she likes to curl up on your lap while you watch television or against your body while you sleep. Companion animals like dogs and cats play such a significant role in the everyday lives of millions of people. You would never consider taking your leafblower hunting nor would you want to cuddle up with a set of silverware and cup of hot cocoa. However, if you are going through a divorce, most states recognize companion animals simply as property, no different than the household items in these impractical examples.

Working Together

Communication and compromise are important tools for any divorcing couple when making arrangements for parental responsibilities and the division of property. Placing a dispute in the hands of the court to decide can lead to contentious hearings and an outcome that leaves one or both partners unhappy. When custody of pets is at issue, however, compromise is even more imperative. While there are some small signs of change around the country, most courts are not nearly as concerned with a pet’s best interest as they are with that of a child.

Consider Your Pet’s Needs

While neither partner may want to give up on their pets, honest consideration should be given to the health and well-being of the animal. Dogs, for instance, are typically much better suited than cats to moving between ex-spouses’ homes. Additionally, most dogs adapt better to longer stays in one place before moving to the other. If both partners want to share a dog, for example, and are able to provide appropriate care, the dog may respond better to alternating months than alternating weeks. Cats, on the other hand, do not typically handle change to their environment very well. Difficult as it may be, it may be best for the cat to remain with one partner.

Consistency Matters

Much like children, companion animals thrive on a consistent daily routine. Feeding times, walks, and household nighttime activities all affect the well-being and behavior of dogs and cats. Stability and consistency should definitely be considered when a divorcing couple is making arrangements for their pets. Also like children, companion animals are individuals with their own needs and characteristics. Specific breeds may have typical temperaments and behaviors, but every animal is different and your veterinarian can offer suggestions on helping your animal cope with changes.

From a legal perspective, courts are beginning to recognize that pets are more than just property. Change, however, is relatively slow and to date, most decisions are based on which partner has invested in the care and well-being of the pet.

Seek Legal Guidance

If you are considering divorce and are concerned about your pet’s well-being, you do not need to go through it alone. Contact an experienced Lombard family law attorney today and we can answer your questions. With the right lawyer on your side, you will have all the help you need to protect your rights under the law and make the best decisions for your future.



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