Last year, many animal advocates and divorcing pet parents were heartened to hear that the Rhode Island House of Representatives had passed a “pet custody” bill that would allow judges to make decisions regarding a pet in a divorce based on the animal’s best interests, much as with children in child custody battles. The legislation would have recognized pets as feeling, sentient beings rather than property to be divided like boats, furniture and investments.
A handful of states have already done that, but it seems like Rhode Island won’t be added to that list – at least not yet. Unfortunately, that bill died once it went to the Senate.
Negotiating an agreement with your soon-to-be ex
That doesn’t mean, however, that divorcing couples can’t reach their own agreement regarding their companion animals’ custody and care. You can negotiate a pet custody and sharing agreement, which is similar to a parenting plan for children.
Even in states that recognize pets as more than property, being able to decide on an agreement without a judge who doesn’t know you or your animal making the decision can be what’s best for you and your beloved pet.
What to include in your agreement
With this type of agreement, you can determine whether you’ll divide physical custody, with your animal moving back and forth. It may be better for your animal to stay in one home, with the other having them for play dates on weekends. Typically, when there are children, pets stay wherever they are. You should also decide how you will split costs for food, medical care, grooming and more.
If you have experienced legal guidance, you can work to protect your rights and do what’s best for your pet(s). Having an official, court-sanctioned document in place as part of your divorce agreements can help you prevent conflicts later and keep an animal who’s probably a big source of comfort and solace in your life as you go through the multitude of changes that divorce brings.