When you look back over the closest companions you have had in your life, probably at least one of them was a pet. Dogs, cats and other animals often provide emotional support and unconditional love that you may not have found anywhere else, even in your marriage. Unfortunately, if a pet is a member of your family when you go through a divorce, you may find yourself in a difficult battle for obtaining custody of that animal.
Kansas, like most other states, does not recognize pets as family members, companions or even children, as some pet owners feel about their beloved dogs and cats. Because of this, the battle for determining who gets the pet in a divorce often becomes quite emotional and even painful.
Negotiating for custody
As much as you love your furry or feathered companion, it may be difficult to understand how the courts can view your pet as property. Nevertheless, this is the fact in most family courts, and the reason is understandable. Courts are so overwhelmed with child custody matters that to deal with the custody of dogs and cats may create a dangerous backlog that could be detrimental to the well-being of children. The result is that pets often get used by one spouse as leverage or punishment against the other.
Even though Kansas does not consider the best interests of the pet during divorce proceedings, you and your spouse may be able to negotiate a pet sharing agreement. You may suggest working out a compromise that answers the following:
- Who will have the pet on which days of the month and for how long?
- Who will make decisions about the pet’s medical treatment, dietary restrictions, vaccinations and other issues of care?
- Who will pay for the animal’s expenses, including food, grooming and other needs?
- Can you or your ex take the pet out of the state on trips?
- Who will ultimately make the decision about when it is time to euthanize the pet and what to do with the pet’s remains?
In many cases, maintaining a civil and cooperative composure helps with negotiations. It is also important to remember that the court may not be able to use its influence to enforce your agreement concerning pet custody, so you would be wise to seek legal advice about your options. You may even be willing, under legal advisement, to make other sacrifices in the divorce settlement in order to obtain full custody of your pet.