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"Love me, love my pet" and the new pet custody law

Alaska pet owners considering divorce will have more to consider when it comes to their pets. Pets are no longer mere pieces of material property subject to division in a divorce. While one usually thinks of children when considering custody issues, pets are not part of the equation.

As reported by the Washington Post, like children, a new law will require courts to consider the well-being of the family animals before deciding who has custody. Custody may be sole or joint. In addition, the court may award possession to one owner based not on the needs of either divorcing owner, but on what is in the pet’s best interest.

Divorcing spouses may seek not just custody, but visitation with the pet if the pet does not primarily live with that owner. Pet support of the financial kind is also an issue. Who pays for the food, and who decides what kind of food? Who pays for vet bills and grooming? Who transports the pooch for visitation or either vet or grooming appointments?

Considerations for pet’s well-being

When deciding which owner has the best interests of the pet, it may be that there are other considerations similar to but different from the considerations for child custody. For instance, some considerations may include the following:

Will the custody of the children impact the pet custody decision? Should the pet be with the children? Not necessarily, if that pet does not play well with children, or if a child has allergies to that pet.

What about the work schedule of divorcing owners? One specific owner might not be the best fit if her or his work schedule means the dog remains alone for 12 hours a day. Who will walk the dog during the day?

What about play space? Will the owner with a yard be best? What if it is a cat and not a dog?

Will it matter whom the dog responds to most? Whom does he plays with most?

Different results may logically ensue based on many factors and needs of the pet. 

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