In many divorce cases, custody or ownership of the beloved family pet is very important and the dispute can even become contentious. Sean Palmer, author of the Texas Family Law Blog, recently wrote an interesting article on the subject. It is very well written and I can’t quibble with any of it. My analysis of the subject, under Ohio law, doesn’t appear to vary from his under Texas law. As barbaric as it sounds, pets are categorized under Ohio law as “personal property”. The court cannot treat Rover as a child, and award custody or shared parenting of him to the parties. But, I have seen Judges on rare occasions designate one party as the pet’s owner and permit the other to have access to the pet. Most domestic relations judges that I have come across are sensitive to the importance pet ownership may have and will patiently consider the facts. Some, on the other hand, are impatient and will tell counsel to just “flip a coin” to determine the owner. If the court is not inclined to consider all the facts and implications, scheduling a private mediation is also an option to consider.
Sean winds up his post by concluding “you need to find out early from your attorney how they feel about your passion for your animal. Some lawyers will not want to deal with your special issues. Try to find an attorney who is both sympathetic to your special attachment and yet practically minded about how to resolve the issues for both your interest and your pet’s best interest.” With that, I couldn’t agree more!
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Robert L. Mues
Robert Mues is the managing partner of Dayton, Ohio, law firm, Holzfaster, Cecil, McKnight & Mues, and has received the highest rating from the Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review for Ethical Standards and Legal Ability. Mr. Mues is also a founding member of the "International Academy of Attorneys for Divorce over 50" blog.