We all know that child custody is a highly-contested issue in many divorce cases, but did you know that pet custody can also leave couples barking? According to family law attorneys from California and the rest of the nation, people are starting to think of their pets more like kids, and they are willing to fight over custody in court.
A 2006 survey by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers indicated that 25 percent of lawyers surveyed said that pet custody cases had increased noticeably since 2001. The AAML president said it is likely that pet custody cases have grown even more common since then.
One California family law attorney told the Associated Press that pet custody cases have increased by as much as 15 percent at his firm over the past five years. In fact, the attorney himself has a shared custody agreement with his ex for their 8-year-old dachshund.
It is believed that the increase in same-sex marriages, civil unions and domestic partnerships throughout the country has also led to an increase in pet custody cases.
Typically, if there are children involved in the divorce the pets with stay with them, but it can become a hairier situation when the couple considers the pets their kids.
As of today, pets are considered property in all states, meaning that they are divided up like other possessions in a divorce. But now judges are beginning to recognize the importance of pets to many couples and are willing to treat them more like children.
However, at this point there are no pet custody laws in effect, which means that the couple and their attorneys are best off working out an arrangement on their own. If a couple agrees to it, a pet parenting plan could be just as extensive as one for a child.
Source: MSNBC, "Divorcees fight like cats and dogs over their pets," Sue Manning, Feb. 29, 2012