Couples who get married share their entire lives together. For many families in Colorado, this also means sharing the care of a family pet. In fact, according to the Huffington Post, 63 percent of households in this country are pet owning families, with dogs accounting for the majority. These animals are often deeply loved and considered members of the family. But when a couple splits up, the question of who gets the pet often becomes complicated.
While many pet owners may consider themselves pet parents, legally speaking, pets are not children. In the eyes of the law, a pet is a possession and therefore ownership must be decided based on the concept of equitable distribution. In cases where judges have granted shared custody or visitation with the pet, enforcement of such stipulations is not always easy.
Much as some people may use their children as pawns in a divorce battle, some people may try to use their pet to the same end. However, for those who deeply love and care about their animal, not being granted custody can be devastating. While requests can be made for judges to consider things like whether one person had the pet before the relationship began and who cared for the animal during the marriage, some argue that doing so is a waste of the court’s resources, which are better spent on protecting the interests of children.
However, according to USA Today, one state has become the first to take a firm stance on this issue. In Alaska, courts must now take the well-being of pets into consideration when granting custody. This may mean that joint custody of pets and visitation will become more common, if both parties truly have an interest in maintaining a relationship with the animal. It remains to be seen whether more states will follow suit.