Divorce is an emotionally trying experience, and having your trusted and loyal pet with you can provide a much needed sense of stability in troubled times. US pet ownership has tripled since the 1970s and now 62 percent of American households include a family mascot. As only 30% of households have minor children, there are actually more pets out there than kids! As a result, more and more divorcing couples are finding themselves in custody disputes over pets. While you may regard your pet as a family member, under Washington State law, your pet is considered property. Judges, who are abysmally ignorant of animal behavior issues, are not inclined to treat pets as anything other than property. Judges are sometimes however disposed toward granting pet custody to the spouse who also gains custody of the children. If you sincerely wish to keep your pet, our Seattle family law attorney team at V. Freitas Law, PLLC can help you start to build a legal strategy so that you can secure the best possible outcome for your beloved pet.
Animals do not view their owners as interchangeable commodities. They behave differently towards different owners in terms of bonding and obedience. It is a matter of importance which party ends up with Fido after all, for both owner and pet. Unfortunately, the law has not evolved to take cognizance of this fact, leaving divorcing couples to struggle with the issue alone. If your pet was acquired by one spouse before the marriage, it will be considered his/her property. If it was acquired during the marriage, it is considered to be community property and subject to an equitable division like the Tupperware and microwave oven. At V. Freitas Law, PLLC our advice to clients is to settle this matter extra-judicially so as to provide more flexibility of choice.
There are numerous options available. Pet ownership can be negotiated and considerable concessions with regard to other property may be put upon the table. A visitation schedule or joint custody can be arranged, although such a confusing shift of milieu can be quite stressful to pets. And, this arrangement can lead to complications if one spouse moves out of state. Agreements can be arrived at as to pet-related expenses. And, if necessary, we can establish for you “pet trust”. In case of the death or disability of the owner, the trust will provide for the care and maintenance of your pet. At least 42 states have now adopted laws allowing for the creation of trust funds for pets.
Aside from the ownership issues surrounding pets, our family law attorney team at V. Freitas law is poised to assist you in all of your divorce related concerns. We are skilled, professional negotiators in all aspects of Seattle family law. Call our Seattle office now at (206) 328-7362 for your free initial consultation. Your pet will thank you for it.