No one quite understands the love for a pet better than a pet owner. These pets can be spoiled beyond belief, from personalized grooming to doggie hotels. The adoration has no limit. Many would even consider these pets to be their own children. Therefore, it is difficult for many pet owners to comprehend that the laws of many states consider pets as property and therefore are divisible under marital property law. Georgia courts follow an equitable division of the assets approach. The goal of an equitable division is not equality but instead fairness. Here, the judge will evaluate the circumstances surrounding the pet to determine a fair outcome. Thus, one party may be awarded complete possession of the pet.
On the other hand, many divorce proceedings result in both parties sharing custody of the pets and governed by an agreement. Most Courts understand that agreements reached by parties during a divorce proceeding are far superior to reaching a resolution by trial. As long as that agreement is reasonable, a judge will almost always approve it. As soon as the parties’ divorce agreement becomes an Order of the Court, the details will become enforceable. One option for a visitation plan with a pet would be beneficial if the parties also had minor children. If the parties have minor children, a great solution is to simply keep the pets on the same custody schedule as the children. Thus, the children will never be without the pets and both parents will be able to spend time with the pets, as well. However, if the parties do not have children, then a visitation plan will force the parties to have constant contact and communication that they otherwise would not. This is something to think about in terms of what each party will be comfortable with. Regardless of the plan that you choose to put in place for shared visitation, it is extremely important that the details be finalized beforehand.
Another item that needs to be planned for is the costs associated with caring for a pet, such as food, vaccinations, and even clothing and toys. As all pet owners know, these expenses can be extremely costly. If you and your ex decide to share custody of the pet, these costs should also be divided in a fair manner. Next, it must be decided how certain decisions concerning your pet will be made in the future. For instance, who will have the final say on whether to treat your dog’s ulcers or whether or not to euthanize? Since these decisions are extremely emotional, it is best to have an understanding of how they will be made ahead of time.
If you are contemplating a divorce that will involve pets, please contact the attorneys at Vayman & Teitelbaum. Our attorneys will work with you to discuss this unique situation and the complexities involved. During this process we will strive to ensure that all of your needs are met and the best plan is made for you and your pet.