Many divorce courts are starting to use some of the same considerations in making pet custody determinations as they do when dealing with child custody and visitation. When making a decision, some judges will look out for the best interest of the pet, which means that shared custody or visitation rights may be granted. Those who wish to have sole custody of a pet after a divorce or separation should be prepared to show that they provided for most of the pet's needs.
This means an individual must show that he or she provided daily care such as feeding the animal or scooping its waste. Other factors that are likely to be considered include who has the most time to spend with the pet as well as the financial means to provide for it. Whoever is awarded the animal must also have adequate space for it, and this of course can differ based on the size and type of the animal. If the couple has children, their kids' relationship with the pet will also be considered.
If a private agreement can be negotiated between the spouses, a judge may take it into consideration when making the ruling. If no agreement can be reached, it may be necessary to concede another piece of property to gain full custody of the pet.
While pets were traditionally considered to be personal property when courts were preparing an order dealing with the division of marital assets, many are now taking a far different approach and applying the same best interests principle as they do with children. Accordingly, a divorcing pet owner might appreciate the assistance of a family law attorney when making the argument that he or she should be entitled to custody.