Family Law

Pet Custody Cases Proliferate, Divorce Lawyers Say; One Shares Custody of Dudley Dachshund with Ex


Once upon a time, the family pet was simply considered property. And, even as attitudes towards an animal’s role in a household changed, it was easy for a judge in a matrimonial case to include custody of a pet along with custody of the child or children that it presumably played with.

But what to do when the pet effectively is the family’s child? In a growing number of cases, such issues are creating work for the nation’s matrimonial lawyers, the Associated Press reports.

Ken Altshuler, a Portland, Maine, practitioner who serves as president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, says the number of pet-custody matters has grown noticeably over the past decade.

Attorney David Pisarra of Santa Monica, Calif., says the amount of pet custody work he handles is up 15 percent since 2006. In addition to helping clients with pet-custody concerns, he has faced the issue himself, the article notes. He and his ex share custody of Dudley, an 8-year-old dachshund, under an agreement they worked out together.

And Pisarra and a client teamed up last year to write a book about co-parenting a pet after a separation titled What About Wally?

“Judges are viewing [pets] more akin to children than dining room sets,” Altshuler said. “They are recognizing that people have an emotional attachment to their animals.”

Related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “Dog Law Can Pay in Kibble, But Offers Other Benefits”

ABAJournal.com: “Experts Advise on Key Custody Issue: The Family Dog”

ABAJournal.com: “Divorced Couple Ordered to Split Custody of Family Dog”

ABAJournal.com: “Chihuahua Bought By Wife Isn’t Community Property, Appeals Court Rules”

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