Owning a pet often turns out to be about a lot more than just hosting an animal in your home. You might even consider your dog part of your family. Unfortunately, now that you are going through a divorce, you are probably realizing that the law sees him or her very differently.
In New Hampshire, dogs and other pets are considered property. This means that family law courts typically expect divorcing couples to address the family pet during property division, much like they would furniture or other household goods. Pet owners who are not ready to say goodbye to their furry friends forever can take proactive measures to avoid this outcome.
What is best for the pet?
Divorcing parents have to consider what is in their children’s best interests when creating custody agreements. Pet parents can — and should — do the same when considering how to handle their animals during divorce. You should be sure to ask yourself whether you think it would be best for just one person to keep your dog in the divorce or for you and your ex to share custody.
There are a lot of factors that might influence your answer. For example, how old is your dog? Could he or she handle moving between homes on a regular basis? You might also want to consider whether both you and your ex can commit the time and care required for taking care of an animal.
Creating a pet custody agreement
If you decide to share custody you should also be prepared to create your own custody and time sharing agreement. Should you and your ex end up in court, there is a very real possibility that the judge will simply award one of your ownership. Here are a few things to make sure to include in your pet custody agreement:
- A detailed weekly schedule
- Who can make medical decisions and under what circumstances
- Whether you can travel out of state with your dog
- What will happen in the event of a disagreement
You should also be sure to address financial responsibilities. Will one person be responsible for vet bills while the other covers the cost of food? Or will you share these types of expenses jointly? It is best to be overly specific and address as many possibilities that you think might occur.
Do not give up on your dog
There are few relationships that are quite as special as those between an owner and a dog. It can be hard to imagine having to say goodbye to a beloved animal too. While some owners already anticipate having to let their beloved pets pass on one day, few expect to lose them during divorce.
This does not have to be the case though. Couples can successfully create their own pet custody agreements when going through a divorce. This also gives some couples the opportunity to learn more about New Hampshire family law, which can be very helpful during the rest of the divorce process.