For many New York couples, the central focus within their divorce is the care and custody of their shared children. For others, property division takes center stage. In some cases, however, spouses are at odds over which party will retain the family pets. While it may be difficult for some people to imagine, true pet lovers will understand that losing access to a cherished dog or cat can be a devastating prospect. In such cases, spouses will go to battle over pet “custody” within their divorce.

This approach is illustrated in one recent divorce that has garnered a great deal of media attention. A New York couple were at odds over who would retain the right to raise Joey, the miniature dachshund shared by both partners. They asked a judge to consider the issue, and in a departure from the norm, the judge agreed to hold a separate hearing dedicated solely to the issue of pet “custody.”

In his ruling, the judge stated that pets should be considered more like child custody issues and less like mere pieces of property. Animal advocates across the nation have heralded this unusual ruling as a giant step forward, and many had hoped that the hearing would be scheduled. In the end, however, the couple was able to settle the matter outside of court.

While this particular New York divorce case will not be heard, the fact that a judge was willing to address the issue is a significant shift in the traditional approach to pet “custody”. For those spouses for whom this issue is of concern, the best approach is to try to work an agreement outside of court. In many cases, the agreement that a couple is able to reach on their own is far easier to live with than one handed down by a judge who is not familiar with the needs of a particular pet or the level of attachment between a pet and owner.

Source: New York Post, Dog fight over in dachshund custody battle, Julia Marsh, Dec. 10, 2013