These days it is common to know someone who shares time with his or her children. We call it a Parenting Plan in Arizona. It defines when the children will be with mom and when they will be dad.
What about the non-human members of our family?
What about our dogs, cats and other animals that hold such special places in our hearts? These may be the kids before we had kids,or the kids after the kids grew up and moved away, or maybe they are the “kids.” Regardless of the circumstances, pets move into our hearts and don’t leave. When a relationship fails, the idea of not seeing a pet again can be gut wrenching.
Pets are considered personal property in Arizona. That means that just like a couch or car or flat-screen television, in a dissolution of marriage case, someone will receive the dog or cat and someone won’t. I recently was involved in a case where one of the biggest hurdles to resolution was the dog. The husband and wife did not have a lot of money or assets, but they each spent a lot of money and time arguing over the dog. I kept reminding my client that from a financial standpoint it was not worth the money spent in attorney’s fees to argue over the dog. As a lawyer, that is the cost-benefit analysis we have to go through with our clients. As a person, I was the one who kept making an appointment to euthanize my dogs, and then canceling it, because even though I had two very sick near-death dogs, I couldn’t bring myself to actually say it was time. It is the classic logic versus emotion pull that family law attorneys have to deal with on a daily basis.
Time-Sharing with Pets
I have negotiated and argued on behalf of my clients for a petsharing arrangement. I have seen more people share time with pets when they have human children and the pets go back and forth with the kids. But, it does happen where parties ask for a time-sharing arrangement for the pets.
Any time-sharing arrangement for pets should be clearly defined. Specific days and times should be delineated. Clarity is necessary if someone wants to be able to enforce the timesharing. With pets, in my personal (not legally backed by anything other than my opinion) view, they don’t need to see the other person as frequently as children. Thus, it may be easier on the parties to have fewer exchanges. It may not be necessary to exchange a couple of times a week. Once a week or less may be sufficient for exchanges.
The other consideration is sharing the pet’s expenses. Pet food is one thing, and in and of itself isn’t cheap. But what about medical expenses? Are the parties going to equally share in those expenses? Are the parties going to agree to communicate and consult with each other regarding the animal’s emergency and non-emergency medical care? What about the end of life decision? The parties have to have a clearly written contract between them to address these issues. As with human children, addressing those difficult topics before a disagreement arises is key.
Listening to Your Needs to Resolve Your Case
Part of any dissolution of marriage case involves dealing with dividing personal property – even those things that you may not consider to be personal property. If you are going through a dis- solution of marriage or have questions about personal property items, please contact an experienced family law attorney.
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