Evidence can be presented to the Judge to increase your odds of getting custody of your pet. You brought the pet into the marriage. You bought or adopted the pet. Your name is one on the ownership papers as the pet’s owner. You take the pet to the veterinarian for check-ups and emergencies. You walk the pet. You take more care of the pet. The pet responds more to you and comes when you call his/her name. You are remaining in the residence where the pet has lived, so the pet’s routine will not be disturbed. Your residence has more space indoors and outdoors for the pet. Your work hours allow you to spend more time with the pet during the day. You can take off during work to go home to tend to the pet. You feed the pet. You take the pet to the groomers. You are physically able to tend to and walk the pet.
Gather and preserve papers proving these fact. Get pictures of you and your pet together in a variety of settings and over a period of time. Identify witnesses who have spent time with you and your pet at your home and outside to testify that you are the primary caretaker of the pet, walk the pet, groom the pet, and that the pet is more bonded to you than your spouse. The pet sits next to you and stays by your side.
Because you don’t know what a judge will do with pets-if anything–it may make sense to work out a settlement regarding the custody of the pet. Come up with a pet custody schedule and division of pet related expenses. A good idea is for the pets and children split times with your and your spouse by having the pet go between homes along with the custody of the kids. This way the kids are always with their pet and the pet with the kids. This provide emotional comfort and stability to your children’ lives. Divorce is stressful on kids who may feel their lives have become disrupted. Keeping the pet and kids together provides stability and continuity for kids. Children must always come first.
In the second part of this Blog, I will review Virginia case law on the subject of how courts have dealt with pets in divorce.