When two people choose to divorce, there are many areas where they may face disagreements. Traditional divorce settlement methods such as litigation may actually encourage arguments because they require parties to work against each other. In any divorce, common areas of contention include the division of assets and debts, alimony and parental rights and responsibilities issues. A recent article in the Huffington Post talks about the issue of pet ownership when couples get divorced. The author cites that 63% of U.S. households own pets and many people treat their pets as members of the family. For this reason, determining who gets custody of the pet or pets during the divorce is a big issue for some people.
Unfortunately, the law does not take into consideration people's emotional attachments to a pet. Parties who use a litigated divorce option are subject to the ruling of a judge or jury to settle disagreements including who gets custody of a pet. In New Hampshire, as well as most states, pets are considered property and the rights to which is determined by factors such as who originally adopted them. Typically, courts award custody of the animals to the person who provides the cost of their food and care, who is responsible for taking them to the veterinary visits and who generally cares for them on a day-to-day basis. Pets also tend to be awarded to the parent who has majority custody of the children. Very seldom is the best interest of the animal considered in a divorce dispute.
One way to decide who gets custody of an animal is to avoid the court and take a cooperative approach towards the divorce settlement. This is called Collaborative Divorce. Collaborative Divorce is a relatively new type divorce procedure that allows parties to work together instead of against each other. It involves both parties hiring their attorneys, but instead of fighting over issues, they sit down and work them out together. There are many benefits of this process including the ability to be creative and customize a divorce agreement.
Because an animal is considered property, parties are generally not given joint custody as a result of litigation. Parties who choose to use the collaborative process, however, are free to do as they see fit. Collaborative divorce may be the future of pet divorce agreements because it allows divorcing parties to customize a plan in order to fit their individual needs. A couple work together to decide on a visitation schedule for a pet as well as a plan for who is responsible for paying for medical costs, taking the animal to veterinary visits and other responsibilities. For anyone who is concerned about losing their pet in a divorce, a collaborative divorce is a good option to consider.
If you are contemplating divorce in New Hampshire and have a pet or other property that you are concerned about losing, call Russman Law to find out more about Collaborative Divorce. In addition to customization, this type of divorce has a lot of other benefits. For more information, call us at (603) 772-3433.