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Court will decide custody of Joey, but he isn’t a human child

It isn’t difficult to see why many people keep dogs as pets in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Coming home to an overly excited face and swooshing tail can lift one’s spirits on even the worst days. A dog’s love is unconditional — something that isn’t always true in human relationships. When a couple decides to end their marriage, it isn’t uncommon for both partners to want to keep their furriest member of the family with them.

While spouses may put a pet on the top of their priority list, not every family court will hear arguments about the custody of a pet during a divorce. The truth is that although we consider them to be man’s best friend and a very real member of the family, the law in many jurisdictions still considers a pet a piece of property.

“If judicial resources can be devoted to such matters as which party gets to use the Escalade as opposed to the Ferrari, or who gets to stay in the Hamptons house instead of the Aspen chalet, there is certainly room to give real consideration to a case involving a treasured pet,” said a judge in a rare case in which he agreed to consider the issue.

This particular judge plans to schedule a hearing in which he will use a “best interests” determination similar to that used in child custody cases to decide which spouse a dog named Joey will legally reside with. An example of one of these factors is the amount of time that each owner spent with Joey.

As noted above, jurisdictions vary on how courts will treat this issue. For instance, this decision will be made in New York while another has already been made in an Alabama court. Contrary to these cases, Kansas courts have made it clear that they will not allow custody arguments over pets as if they were people.

For those that decidedly want a custody arrangement for their pet, including those in Oklahoma, they can enlist the help of their divorce attorney to solve the issue out of court. For example, an attorney can help negotiate a possible time-sharing agreement between the pair.