Family Law for Real Housewives: Pet Custody

This season of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills centers around Puppygate. Dorit adopted a dog, Lucy Lucy Apple Juice, from her fellow housewife’s pet rescue center, Vanderpump Dogs. Subsequently, Dorit gave away the dog, which ended up in a shelter. Thankfully, an implanted chip resulted in Lucy’s safe return to Vanderpump Dogs and she is now in a loving home.

Drama ensued between the Real Housewives cast regarding this incident and its fall out in the press. In reaction, viewers vocalized strong opinions.

Puppygate underscores how passionate people are about their pets. I can relate, as I am a HUGE pet lover myself.

In many homes across the nation, pets lovingly support their families every step of the way. Consequently, when a couple breaks up, who gets the pet can be a highly emotionally charged issue.

Divorce laws vary by state with respect to this hot button issue. Traditionally, divorce courts treated pets similar to tangible personal property. However, there has been a trend shifting the legal standard to what is best for all involved.

A divorce agreement may include provisions governing what will happen to a dog, cat, or other family pet. In some instances, only one party will get to keep the pet. In other circumstances, the parties will share time with the pet. In cases involving children, sometimes the pet travels back-and-forth according to the parenting time schedule and in other situations the parent who does not have the children at a given time may be responsible to care for the pet. The divorce agreement may also set forth provisions regarding payment of veterinary, food, and other pet costs.

Many individuals enter into marriage with a pet, whether owned separately or jointly. If a couple elects to enter into a prenuptial agreement, the document may also contain terms dictating what happens to a pet in the event of divorce.

Pets are our devoted furry friends, who support us through good and bad times. It is important to consider what’s best for all involved, including the pet, in the event of a break-up.