In child custody arrangements for divorcing families, the legal standard is to act in the best interest of the child. But what about pets? In many households, pets –dogs, cats, lizards, turtles, rabbits -- are considered part of the family. So if a couple is getting divorced, how do they decide how to share the pets?
This is a common question that we address in divorce mediation at Westfield Mediation, LLC
It used to be that pets were considered property that could be allocated to one divorcing partner or another, like a sofa, or the dining room table. Nowadays, in many states, the standard for sharing pets has changed to the best interest of the animal – mirroring the child custody rule.
As a result, our divorce mediation agreements may include shared pet custody plans with set schedules, and shared financial and decision-making responsibility. We cover who will pay for the animals' food and veterinary bills. We consider who has the best set-up and ability to care for the animals, as well as where the human kids are going to be – in some cases, the animal schedule follows the child schedule. Because our divorce mediation agreements focus on the whole family, the needs of the pets and their owners must be included.