For some Arizona readers, their pets are truly part of their families. When a divorce is on the table, many couples simply cannot come to terms over who should keep the pets. That can cause a great deal of contention, especially since most family courts will not weigh in on the matter, or will simply approach the topic in the same vein as personal property. One state, however, has just passed legislation that directs judges to treat pets more like children when making a determination on "custody."
Currently, when spouses cannot reach an agreement on how to continue caring for their pets, there is no guarantee that the courts will step in at all. There have been cases in which judges have refused to consider the matter, and others where the determination was made in the same way that ownership of a lamp or table would be decided. Few courts are willing to entertain testimony or evidence concerning what is in the best interests of a pet.
In Alaska, judges will now begin considering the well-being of the pets when faced with this type of case. An additional law allows for pets to be included in restraining orders, and for victims of domestic violence to seek financial support for pet care. That could help victims decide to leave an abusive living scenario.
As of the time of this report, only one state has laws on the books pertaining to pet "custody." However, other states, including Arizona, could soon follow suit. That would come as a welcome change to pet owners who feel strongly about having the right to keep their pets after a divorce.
Source: The Huffington Post, "In Alaska, Divorce Courts Must Now Consider Pet Wellbeing", Hilary Hanson, Jan. 26, 2017