What is a Pet Custody Agreement?
When couples split, one of the most contentious parts of separation is deciding who gets custody of pets. In most cases, dogs are the source of these disagreements, but any pet might prompt owners to consider a pet custody agreement. Most jurisdictions do not directly address pet custody disagreements or may prefer to treat pets as assets. However, more states are making changes and honor agreements.
Pet custody agreements make it possible for you to hammer out, in writing, how you and your ex will share responsibilities for your pet. The document dictates who retains primary pet ownership, who becomes responsible for financial upkeep and how much time each party can spend with the beloved pet. It may also clear up discrepancies over who the owner is, if the court decides to treat your pet as personal property.
In fact, your pet custody agreement is a lot like the custody arrangement couples make when determining child custody. The main difference is that children do not have the same needs pets do, so courts may not invest as many resources into ensuring the best interest of your pet. Compare this to family courts, which always prioritize the needs of children by applying the best-interest test.
What is a Pet Custody Agreement used for?
Dogs are pack animals. They miss their humans when separated for long periods of time. While cats and other pets are less attached to their owners, they may also respond negatively to separation from the people they bonded with. Pet custody agreements help reduce the likelihood of this.
Pet custody agreements are also helpful for tempering inherent selfishness or possessiveness in one partner. Without a legal agreement, this person might hold on to the pet for so long that the other owner has no access.
Finally, pet custody agreements provide legal recourse for pet disagreements that may later arise. Without this, the disadvantaged pet owner would have no grounds for making requests for pet visitation.
Why should you use a Pet Custody Agreement?
The question most people ask is: why bother? Why go through the extra trouble of fighting over a pet during separation or divorce proceedings? People are especially confused by these agreements when the couple did not marry or live together. Even so, there are some good reasons few people can ignore.
If the non-custodial parent can prove he or she bought the dog and was the primary caretaker, he or she can take that dog as personal property. Custodial agreements help ensure children still get to spend time with their pets in their primary homes.
When people cannot have children, they are more attached to their pets. This is common among women struggling with fertility issues and same-sex couples, who have not yet pursued other avenues for parenthood. Losing touch with pets could prove detrimental to their mental health.
How to write a Pet Custody Agreement
When writing a pet custody agreement, start by taking a breather. Attacking the issue from an emotional standpoint may cause you to make demands your ex might never agree to. When you are more clear-headed, you have a much higher likelihood of striking compromises with a better chance of acceptance.
Next, you should determine whose needs to prioritize. For example, do you need a custodial agreement to ensure the children have access to the pet as often as possible? Is your pet closer to you or your ex? He or she might prefer to spend time with the person already chosen as a favorite. This can be a tough pill to swallow if you’re not that person.
Like it or not, a pet custody agreement requires an actual agreement, so you must negotiate with your ex. Determine what your bottom line is before negotiations and be reasonable. Note that if you cannot reach a compromise, the court may throw the agreement out and assign your pet to one pet parent.
This is some of the information you need to cover when negotiating and when finalizing the pet custody agreement:
- 1. Owner names
- 2. Pet name(s)
- 3. Date
- 4. Location
- 5. Primary physical custody
- 6. Medical decisions or major decisions
- 7. Visitation schedule
- 8. Transportation for visitation
- 9. Financial responsibility
- 10 Transfer of ownership
How to Fill Out a Pet Custody Agreement with PDFSimpli in Five Steps
Negotiating is the hard part of creating a pet agreement. Once that’s behind you, you might feel relieved to finally fill out the document. Using these steps can help you stay focused so you can feel 100% sure you covered all your bases.
1. Prepare the Information:
Before you start filling out the agreement, ensure you have everything you need. In the event that the court asks you to prove ownership, you might need a receipt for the pet’s purchase or adoption, medical records and credit card statements showing fiscal responsibility.
2. Choose the Right Software:
Unfortunately, your ex might change his or her mind halfway through and insist that you make a few changes. In cases like these, it’s important to have affordable software that allows you to save and edit the document. These can be incredibly expensive. PDFSimpli provides software that allows this and so much more for free during its trial period.
3. Fill Out or Edit:
When you feel confident you chose the right program for the job, you can proceed with filling out the information. Your preparation documents can help you fill in the details when it comes to shared time, financial responsibility and transportation.
4. Review the Agreement:
You might feel excited and want to send the first draft off to your ex. Resist the urge. Your custodial agreement is legally binding, once signed. Imagine, for instance, that you meant to allocate financial responsibility of up to $500 per month to your ex but ended up putting $50 instead. If your dog has chronic medical problems, it could bankrupt you.
5. Print and Save:
Now that you’ve double-checked for typos and legal discrepancies, you are finally in the position to save or print the document. If possible, consider sending an electronic copy to another pair of eyes, even if it’s not an attorney. After approval, you can then send a copy to your ex for he or she to sign and date.
Pet Custody Agreement Frequently Asked Questions
While the court may honor your final agreement, it may feel less inclined to get involved during a custody dispute. Even so, you are free to create a pet custody agreement without family ties. Pet custody agreements have been used by friends or even ex-roommates who bought pets together but now live apart.
So far, both Illinois and Alaska passed laws to treat pets as more than just property during separation or divorce. California also passed a law that gives judges the right to decide if they wish to treat pets as personal property or family members. New York does not have laws in place, but some judges apply the best-interest test used for child custody cases to pet custody battles. Wisconsin has also made attempts to change how courts treat pets during a divorce. In other states, judges are more likely to refuse to treat pets as family members.
Even in states that treat pets as property, if you have an agreement in place, the court may honor it. If you and your spouse cannot come to an agreement, then the chances of going to court to get a final decision intensifies. Going to court can prove both expensive and embarrassing. Some people simply do not understand the attachment people have to their pets and vice versa.