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Robert B. Buchanan
By: Robert B. Buchanan

Navigating Pets in Divorce Proceedings: Who Keeps Rocky?


It’s Christmas 2018, the kids are huddled around the Christmas tree waiting to see what Santa brought them. Becky is waiting in the kitchen for Rick to come back from the neighbor’s house – the neighbor who was gracious enough to hold on to a very special gift for a few days.

Rick comes in holding a gift-wrapped box with a big red bow on top and something scratching and whining inside. He gently hushes the family’s newest addition as he carries it into the living room, where the kids have ripped open every present under the tree.

“Hey kids, I think Santa forgot to put this one under the tree!”

As they open the box, a golden retriever puppy comes bouncing out – yipping and rolling all over the carpet. The kids (and the parents) are excited and play with their new puppy.

“Welcome to the family Rocky!”


Fast forward to 2022 – COVID took a toll on Rick and Becky’s relationship. The couple can barely stand to be in the same room, let alone do family activities together. The couple finally makes the decision – they are filing for divorce.

As they go to their lawyers to make preparation – they have figured out child custody, dividing the assets in the home, and squared away their financial assets, but one question remains:

What happens to Rocky?

Understanding Pet Custody in Divorce Proceedings

Pets are more than just property – they’re part of the family. Approximately 7 out of 10 households in the United States own one or more pets. A PEW Research study found that 97% of U.S. pet owners consider their pets to be part of the family.

When a couple decides to divorce, figuring out who gets the dog can be just as tough as determining child custody. Family court judges across the country are seeing more and more cases that include untangling pet disputes while navigating divorce law.

The Shift in Legal Perspective on Pets as Family Members

Several states are at the forefront of this custody battle, with legislation proposed to treat pets less like property and more like children in custody issues. This would put furry four-legged friends front and center in divorce proceedings.

Pets as Property vs. Family in Court Decisions

Many states still don’t see Rocky as more than a belonging in divorce proceedings. Change is brewing: some recent cases have started treating pets not merely by their financial value but considering their well-being too.

This shift means looking beyond who bought the pet food or paid vet bills—it’s about creating a stable environment post-divorce and ensuring someone financially stable continues to provide care without causing emotional turmoil to either party—or paw.

Factors Influencing Pet Custody Agreements

Judges weigh various factors when deciding where Rocky should stay after his owners go their separate ways—a bit like child custody law but on the canine level. They look at who primarily took care of him—the one taking long walks or shuttling back and forth from vet appointments may have an edge here. Courts are also beginning to let couples receive visitation rights because saying goodbye shouldn’t mean forever if you’ve got two loving parents—even if they walk on all fours.

Assessing the Best Interest of the Pet

A judge might consider which person has primarily taken care of Rocky during the marriage—think vet bills, daily exercise, and snuggle time. In assessing what’s best for our four-legged friends post-divorce, judges often focus on stability: Who can provide continuity in living arrangements and routines? Can one partner offer a more financially stable home without skipping those annual check-ups?

Financial and Emotional Considerations in Custody Cases

We know child custody cases tug at heartstrings—but so do battles over pets. While financial responsibility plays its part, it’s also about emotional support systems. In some situations, involving domestic violence or animal cruelty, protection orders may be crucial factors influencing custody decisions.

Courts weigh both parties’ attachments to their animal companions against practical considerations such as work schedules and housing restrictions. If you’ve signed a cohabitation agreement before marriage outlining future pet issues—or better yet—a prenuptial agreement including joint ownership clauses regarding pets—you’re ahead of many couples going through these disputes.

Key Takeaway: Pets are family, and courts are catching on. Judges now consider their well-being in divorce cases, not just their price tag.

Mediation and Negotiation Tactics for Shared Pet Custody

If you want your furry friend’s tail wagging rather than caught in the middle of a divorce battle, consider settlement negotiations. This is where you both sit down, maybe with a mediator who loves dogs as much as legalese and hash out an amicable agreement that works best for all – especially those with paws or claws.

prenuptial agreement isn’t just about protecting assets; it can cover future pet issues too. Think of it like planning who gets to keep Netflix if things go south – but way more important because it’s about living beings with feelings. If there wasn’t foresight with a prenup though, no worries – mediation still offers a platform where voices can be heard, and tails won’t droop.

Key Takeaway: When couples split, pet custody can be tough. Try settling outside of court first—think mediation or a prenup for pets to keep things friendly and fair for Rocky.

Prioritizing Animal Welfare During Divorce Proceedings

When a couple decides to part ways, custody disputes can become a reality – and it isn’t limited to just the kids. While you are nurturing your children during your divorce, it is also important to consider the welfare of your pets, too. They are receptive to changes and emotions, just like humans, requiring extra attention to ensure they aren’t affected by the divorce proceedings.

Creating a Stable Environment for Pets Amidst Change

Divorce doesn’t only affect family members; it hits our furry friends hard too. A stable environment is key for their well-being. That means making sure they’ve got consistent care, from pet food schedules to those all-important vet bills—and yes, even ensuring they live where they’ll be happiest. Think about it: if Rocky has always been Daddy’s boy but suddenly, he’s stuck in an apartment with Mom who works 12-hour days – he’s likely to feel emotional distress.

If emotions run high and you can’t agree on who’ll provide care moving forward, divorce doesn’t need to spell disaster for your pet. Look into mediation or bring up the issue with your Chicago divorce attorney – they can help you navigate this new custody landscape and help keep Rocky happy in the process.

Key Takeaway: When couples split, pets need more than a schedule—they need a stable, loving home.

Emotional Impact of Divorce on Pets and Owners

Divorce is like an emotional earthquake, not only for pet owners but also for their animal companions. As members who have paws fully planted in family dynamics, pets mirror our stress levels. They don’t get why they’re seeing less of someone they love or why tension fills the air like static electricity before a storm.

But here’s where we, as responsible pet parents, step up to the plate: ensuring that despite personal upheavals, continuity in pet care remains non-negotiable. From consistent feeding times to maintaining those cherished belly rub sessions—stability is key during transitions. Co-parenting could be an answer if both parties are financially stable enough to provide care without sacrificing Rocky’s favorite brand of pet food or skimping on vet bills.

Practical Tips for Managing Pet Ownership Post-Divorce

If you’ve recently gone through a divorce, figuring out how to care for your pet alone can be tough. With financial planning and practical considerations, you’ll ensure that Rocky remains the happiest pet on the block.

Budgeting for Your Pet’s Needs After Divorce

The first step is all about money. When it was two of you sharing the load, those vet bills and bags of pet food didn’t hit as hard. Now it’s time to crack open that spreadsheet and get real about what your furry friend costs each month. Don’t forget to factor in annual check-ups at the vet, unexpected illnesses (because pets never seem to get sick during office hours) and stocking up on their favorite treats. Having pet insurance might also help in your budgeting – helping you comfortably afford those emergency vet visits without completely messing up your budget.

Creating a Stable Environment for Pets Amidst Change

Divorce shakes up family life – no doubt about it – but keeping things stable for your pet is also essential. They need routine almost as much as kids do; this means regular feeding times, walks (if applicable), playtime sessions with other pets, and snuggles if they’re into that sort of thing.

Your home should remain their safe haven. So, while everything else may feel like it’s flipped upside down, make sure when they paw at that front door after an adventure outside or from one room to another inside—they know exactly what awaits them: safety & love.

Your Chicago Divorce Attorney Can Help with Pet Custody

Pets in divorce proceedings tug at heartstrings and demand sensitivity. You’ve learned that pets are more than property; they’re family, emotionally intertwined with our lives. Courts now consider this bond, treating Rocky less like a couch and more like a child.

To help you navigate the custody of your pet during your divorce, an experienced Chicago divorce attorney like The Law Offices of Robert B. Buchanan can help. We know that divorce is an emotional time – for you, your soon-to-be ex-spouse, your children, and even your pets. Let us help you find common ground and a solution for sharing custody of your pet. Contact The Law Offices of Robert B. Buchanan today for a free consultation.