Divorce – Who Gets The Dog?

couple with a dog
Source: Pixabay

Divorce is often a messy business. What was once a relationship focused on love and mutual understanding becomes a legal battle, often suddenly focused on sharing of material possessions. Divorces can be trying on both parties involved, and will sometimes take years to put to rest. The mental strain can, naturally, be enormous. Especially when children are involved. As divorce becomes more and more common, so too does the trope of a child with two households.

But, what about the pets? Children and financial wealth are obviously the focus of a divorce, and with very good reason. Pets, however, are often overlooked, and treated as part of the material possessions. They are simply lumped in with the cars, electronics, and other household goods of value. But should this be the case? Many would heartily disagree. And, lately, the courts are also changing their stance.

Pets Aren’t Possessions

Many courts are no longer treating pets as material possessions. Led by a few key lawmakers around the world, efforts are being made for pets to be treated more along the lines of children, as opposed to objects. And, with those involved in divorce cases more often than not demanding this stance, courts across the world are adopting the approach.

Multiple cases have been seen where pets are granted shared custody, visitation rights, and everything else that would be expected for a human child. It makes sense, given how attached many become to their pets. And, of course, the best arrangement must clearly be sought for living creatures that were once part of a family.

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The Curious Case Of Gigi

Many point to the case of a greyhound named Gigi that took place in the 1990’s. Gigi was the pet of a couple living in San Diego, the infamous Linda Perkins and Doctor Stanley. Upon separating, the two were granted shared custody of Gigi, but neither was satisfied with the outcome, and decided to take the matter further.

A court battle ensued that took over 2 years, with Linda finally being granted full custody of the dog. The legal war cost an estimated $150,000 dollars, which is far beyond what most would be willing to pay for custody of their pet. General consensus is that the case was about far more than the pet, but, either way, it was Gigi that started changing the way courts thought about pets.

Is the Attitude Really Changing?

Gigi is one thing, but the fact that courts are generally starting to consider the best interest of pets is great news. But just how many courts still treat pets like material possessions? A survey in 2014 conducted by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers specifically stated that there has been an increase of about 27% in court cases dealing with pet custody cases.

This survey covered the period prior to 2017, of 5 years. Clearly, many people no longer wish for pets to be treated as material possessions. However, it should never be forgotten that there are those who simply cannot afford the legal fees involved in tackling such a situation. It would never be denied that people love their pets, but financial situations simply do not allow for court battle in many circumstances.

Many lawyers state, frankly, that it is best for couples to decide between themselves, outside of court, how pets should be dealt with. Settlements can be reached between couples without a court ever getting involved, ensuring that Fido or Fluffy gets to see both parents equally, or that one assumes full custody, and that they don’t suffer the ill effects of a nasty split.

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