For couples who don’t have a child together and are preparing for divorce, they may have thought that there was no reason to consider “custody” issues. However, pet owners would disagree with that, and increasingly dog ownership is becoming an issue with separations and divorces.
This isn’t just conjecture, either, it’s something which is actually taking place in courtrooms. In January, Alaska passed an amendment to their divorce statutes that says the court is not only recommended to, but required to, take into consideration the wellbeing of the animal. The judge is essentially able to rule for either sole or joint custody of the animal.
Certainly this is a major break from how animals are typically handled during divorce proceedings. Historically, dogs, and pets in general, have been regarded as property. Like property, they were therefore in a big jumble of possessions to be distributed between the two parties. The wellbeing of the animal was not truly or officially considered, instead, if wellbeing was considered at all, it was the wellbeing of the people, not the pet.
For anyone who has a beloved pet they feel is a family member, it likely seems like fitting justice that their wellbeing can legally be taken into account. Few loving dog owners consider the animal to be “property” as opposed to a cherished companion, after all.
Another animal issue was also included in the same legislation in Alaska. This piece dictated that pets may be included in domestic violence protective orders.
Will other states follow along, either with official legislation, or by abiding by the spirit of this idea when the issue arises? That remains to be seen, but it wouldn’t be a surprising trend if it continued.
For Maryland residents going through the divorce process, our office is always ready to help you through whichever personal challenges and circumstances you may be facing. Call us at 240.395.1418 with any questions and to schedule an appointment for a free consultation.