Many Kansas households include pets. It’s not uncommon these days for married couples or families to have numerous “fur babies” in their lives. It is sometimes to challenging to keep up with veterinary appointments, buying food and making sure animals get the attention and exercise they need. It can be even more difficult to resolve issues that arise if a married couple who owns a pet decides to divorce. Deciding who gets a pet in divorce has typically been addressed as a property division matter in the past.
Several attorneys and state representatives who have weighed in on the topic say there needs to be a new category of custody law specifically for pets. At least three states have adopted pet custody laws, acknowledging that pets are closer to being family members than they are to being mere possessions or property. Not everyone supports the idea of pet custody laws, however. Some say it opens the door for using the family court system and litigation to take revenge on a former spouse or to harass someone as a way of getting back him or her for past marital hurts.
Some people prefer to work out their pet agreements without getting the courts involved. Others believe it is always best to get everything in writing and to obtain the court’s stamp of approval so that the terms of an agreement can be legally enforced. It may even be possible to share custody of a pet, perhaps similar to co-parenting, and such a plan might include housing a pet at one owner’s home for part of the year, then at the other owner’s home for the rest of the time. Financial issues must also be resolved, such as who pays for pet food and supplies, vet bills and other expenses.
As it stands, most states include issues regarding who gets to keep a pet as part of property division proceedings. Similar to co-parenting plans, however, if one pet owner believes a pet co-owner has not adhered to the terms of a signed agreement, he or she may bring the matter to the court’s attention. A Kansas family law attorney can help determine a best course of action for resolving legal problems in divorce that pertain to pets.