For many Americans throughout the country, pets play a very important role in the family. According to figures from 2014 released by a National Pet Owners Survey, nearly two out of every three households own pets, including as many as 44 million dogs. And the relationship between pets and their families seems to have grown even stronger over the years, as fewer married couples are having children and instead are opting for pets to be their companions.
As such, it's no surprise that lawyers are noticing an increase in child custody issues involving pets. In fact, according to a poll of 1,500 members of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, about 25 percent acknowledged an increase in custody issues with pets. And courts are starting to take notice as well.
In 1995, Florida's First District Court of Appeals overturned a ruling that had granted visitation rights to a family dog involved in the divorce. At the time it was stated that, "Our courts are overwhelmed with the supervision of custody, visitation, and support matters related to the...protection of our children. We cannot undertake the same responsibility as to animals."
That was over 20 years ago, however, and things are beginning to change now. Recently Alaska has acknowledged that the well-being of the animal must be taken into consideration for pets in the middle of their owner's divorce. Although Alaska is the only state thus far to mark a change in considering pets more like children, the rest of the courts still consider pets as property, though that may change one day.
Source: Huffington Post, "Who Gets The Pets In A Divorce? What You Need To Consider When Fighting Over Fido," By Maria Moya, Jan. 19, 2014