Bones Of Contention: Custody of Family Pets

Ann Hartwell Britton has published an article entitled “Bones of Contention: Custody of Family Pets” in the Journal of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, Vol. 20, 2006, No. 1.
“This article addresses the determination of pet custody after the dissolution of a relationship. The circumstances present conflict analogists to child custody cases: physical placement, visitation, and financial support (which has come to be called petimony) are all at issue. Part I examines the case law that informs this issue. Part II demonstrates that public sentiment conflicts with the law’s traditional view of pets. Part III shows that the law’s view of animals is internally inconsistent, in that it does not always treat them as property. Accordingly, making a change in deciding these cases less a departure from precedent than courts seem to feel. Part IV proposes an approach to determine the placement of pets.”

Besides learning a new word (petimony), I found Britton’s point system for examining who took primary responsibility for obtaining and caring of the pet interesting. She also proposes awarding points to the party who prospectively may have better living arrangements and to where the children will be living. (Kids and dogs go together.) The party with the highest number of points wins custody of the animal.

“In sum, public sentiment and conflicting law require that courts modernize their approach to pets when they assist couples in resolving disputes over pet ownership.
The point system avoids the complications of equating pets with children but provides an alternative to maintaining the fiction that pets are the equivalent of household goods.”

Challenge: Name me a divorce court which has the judicial staffing to add pet custody trials to it docket. Question: Who is going to ask the legislature to fund pet court?