As “man’s best friend”, the relationship between a dog and his or her owner is often a cherished relationship. In fact, many pets are often treated as family members in many households. During a divorce, one of the more difficult decisions an ex-couple may have to make is over who gets the pets. In the past, and still in most states, pets are considered property and are split just as any other asset would be split. But the state of Alaska has made a change to that decision, the first in the United States to formally do so.
For the first time, Alaska courts will now need to consider the well-being of the pets when it comes to a divorce. This means that judges may even assign custody to pets, including visitation rights. This is not unprecedented, as evident by a 1995 ruling that was eventually overturned.
In Florida in 1995, it was ruled that an ex-husband had been granted custodial rights and that the ex-wife was granted visitation rights every other weekend and every other Christmas. The ruling was eventually overturned however, by Florida’s First District Court of Appeals, who said that the courts did not have time to address custodial rulings treating pets as they would children.
Anyone who has ever had a pet knows how strong the relationship and bond can be between pet and owner. It appears that the courts, albeit slowly, are starting to recognize this relationship as well. It would not be surprising to eventually see Alaska’s ruling spread through more of the United States, helping to protect the relationship between pets and their divorcing owners.
Source: Huffington Post, “Who Gets The Pets In A Divorce? What You Need To Consider When Fighting Over Fido,” By Maria Moya, Jan. 19, 2014