Getting a divorce can be made extra difficult if you fear losing your pets. While animals may not be given the same attention in a divorce that children are, we often view them much the same way. They are loved ones that we’ve cared for and have attachments to, and the desire to maintain contact with them can be just as strong as it is with our children.
Unfortunately, pet custody is not an easy issue. Here is everything you need to know about how to get pet custody in Arizona.
Pets in Arizona Family Court
The biggest hurdle to arranging shared pet custody or visitation in Arizona is that the law technically views pets as personal property. The law is showing signs of changing in how it views pets, but in the meantime, you’ll need to arrive at a mutual agreement, either by mediation or some other form of negotiation.
How Mediation Can Help
Sometimes you get lucky, and both you and your ex are willing to negotiate the finer details such as what happens to the family pets. Other times, the arguing is too emotional and there’s no way the two of you alone will be able to agree on anything. Fortunately, this doesn’t mean that you need to go straight to court, just that a little extra help is needed.
Mediation can help you come to an agreement when both parties are at odds with one another. Mediation can be done with each party and their attorney in a separate room, and an impartial mediator who is trained to help both parties come to an agreement that is acceptable to both. A mediator can help you arrive at a pet custody and visitation schedule that is acceptable to both of you.
What To Include in a Pet Custody Agreement
To avoid fighting down the road, a pet custody agreement needs to outline each party’s rights and responsibilities throughout the pet’s lifetime. Here are a few points your pet custody agreement needs to address.
- Primary versus shared custody
- Visitation schedule
- How decisions about vet care, old age care, and euthanasia will be made, and who has the final say
If You Do Go To Court
If you cannot come to an agreement, even in mediation, you may need to go to court and let them decide. Most likely the court will make a final decision on who the pet goes with, rather than making a custody agreement with a visitation schedule and a plan for shared decision-making. As a result, you and your attorney will need to make a strong case for why your family pet belongs with you. The court will take into consideration factors such as:
- Who provided most of the feeding, training, and other care for the pet while you were together
- Who is better set up to care for the pet post-divorce, regarding factors such as housing
- If the pet is a family pet, who is getting more parenting time with the children
The Importance of Legal Representation
Whether you go to court or choose to negotiate an agreement between you and your partner, it’s important to have legal representation. A divorce attorney will help you navigate the legal system and ensure that any pet custody agreement you come up with is watertight. To schedule a consultation and find out what your best options are, contact Simon Law Group, PLLC, today.