The issue of the fate of a family pet during a divorce is one example of divorce laws failing to keep up with modern times. When you have a divorce attorney serving Carroll County file a petition for divorce on your behalf, the court will view the family pet as property. Beloved animals are certainly much more than mere property; however, ownership of a pet may be determined much like any other asset. This is one reason why your family law attorney may recommend that you invite your spouse to try mediation.
Giving Mediation a Try
Mediation is often helpful for resolving disputes that arise during divorce. During mediation sessions, you might point out that you acquired the pet before getting married, if this is the case. Or, you might discuss how you are better suited to provide the care the animal needs. A successful outcome to mediation may be dependent upon compromise. Try to work out a visitation schedule with your spouse. For example, the pet could live with you for one month, followed by a month with your ex-spouse. If mediation does not result in a mutually agreeable arrangement, you may need to bring the matter before the judge.
Proving the Role of Primary Caregiver
Much like child custody during a divorce, you can support your claim to ownership of the pet by proving that you fulfilled the role of the primary caregiver for the animal. Begin assembling any evidence that can substantiate your claim. When you bring your animal to the veterinarian, you can ask him or her to sign a note stating that you were the one to bring the animal in, rather than your spouse. Purchase pet food and other supplies with a credit card. Save the receipts with your signature to prove that you provided for the animal. You could even ask your neighbors to write an affidavit stating that they have seen you walking your dog.
Determining the Most Suitable Caregiver
Another factor the judge may consider is which spouse is best able to care for the animal going forward. For example, if your spouse must travel frequently for work and you do not, you may be better suited to provide care. The same applies to spouses who work long hours away from home versus spouses who work out of a home office.