Pets are considered part of the family and have become, especially over the last five years, a more disputed issue when couples end their marriage. There are ways that couples can resolve this divorce issue and take care of the pet’s well-being.
Pets as property
Indiana law, despite the feelings of pet owners, still classifies a pet as property that is allocated through the divorce process like furniture or vehicles. A spouse can try to hold on to their pet by submitting certain documents proving ownership.
These include the adoption application or sales contract. If these are unavailable you should locate the canceled check or credit card statement for the purchase or adoption or contact the breeder or shelter for copies of the paperwork. Veterinary records and proof of payment can show that you are responsible for that ongoing care.
If you purchased local licenses for the pet, you should request a copy of the licensing form from the agency that issued the license. Obtain a copy of the manufacturer’s registry if your pet has an implanted chip.
Having a court decide this matter, if the spouses disagree on custody, should be avoided because judges may be unaware or unmoved by a spouse’s connection with the pet. The parties should try to negotiate an agreement allowing shared custody or ownership and ask the court to enforce it. The agreement can also cover issues such as visitation and payment for the pet’s care.
Couples may also, early in their ownership of their pet, execute a contract determining ownership, care, and financial responsibility for the pet if they ever divorce. A prenuptial agreement before the wedding or a postnuptial agreement after the marriage may address this.
Your pet’s well-being
As a pet owner, you assumed the duty of assuring the pet’s health and well-being. Never use pets as part of a negotiating ploy or for spite.
Daily distractions and exercise can help reduce their stress. Taking a dog for walks with ample freedom, enrolling in a rewards-based training class and playing games can help reduce their anxiety.
An attorney can assist you with asserting your rights and seeking a fair and reasonable agreement. They can help you negotiate agreements and represent you in court.