Custody Disputes are not Always about Children

Custody issues in divorce court are generally about parents fighting over control of a minor. However, children aren’t always the object of a dispute.

A married couple that has one or more child may choose to end their relationship, but both parties generally want to continue their role as a parent to their child or children. As each party tries to have more involvement with the child’s life, custody battles are born.

In recent years, the divorce courts have seen an increase in another custody dispute, custody of the family pet. As the two spouses go their separate ways, they may not agree on who gets the dog, or where the cat sleeps. The spouse that always fed the dog may argue against the one that always walked it, in an effort to prove who is the better “pet parent”.

In situations where all parties want to maintain a relationship with the family pet, they should consider what is best for the animal. A large, hyper, dog may not be a good fit for the new small apartment where one of the spouses has moved. Additionally, the spouse that works long hours may be subjecting the cat to long hours of solitude, perhaps too much even for a cat.

The couple has a variety of options that are very similar to the solutions presented to parents in child custody disputes. It’s all about what’s best for the pet, and how to give more pet owners as much involvement as possible.

Joint custody of a pet is a popular choice, as it gives both parties the ability to have the pet in their home for agreed upon amounts of time. This allows the pet to be an active part of both lives. Sole custody with visitation, would allow one person to have the animal reside with them permanently, while the former spouse retains the option of visiting. This agreement is not always limited to visiting the animal within the home, usually the animal can be taken to a park, beach, or walk on a regular basis.

While no pet is safe from a custody battle, the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers reported that 90% of pet custody disputes involved dogs. They also have reported a 25% increase in pet custody disputes in recent years.

Couple should consider the age and health of a pet, before establishing any sort of custody arrangement. An older dog may not be able to easily travel from one home to another, or go out to parks, or long walks, for visitation.

During a divorce and custody battle, have an experienced divorce attorney to walk you through the process and help avoid costly mistakes. The future of your family is being negotiated, and the results can affect every member of the family.

O. Reginald (“Reggie”) Osenton is the Owner and President of Osenton Law Offices, P.A. If you need a Brandon bankruptcy lawyer, Tampa bankruptcy lawyer, or Tampa bankruptcy attorney, call 813.654.5777 or visit

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