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Visitation Schedule … For Your Pets?

Visitation Schedule … For Your Pets?
September 25, 2019 Shannon Dawes
Columbus divorce lawyer explains dissolution of marriage and divorce.

If a couple in Ohio divorces or separates, aside from separating property, one of the most basic functions a court will undertake is developing a visitation and custody schedule for the parties if they have one or more children in common. This schedule or plan tells each party where child or children will reside, when the nonresidential parent will receive visitation with the child, and how the parties are to participate in making certain decisions for the child or children. This helps prevent arguments and disagreements that might otherwise require the court’s or law enforcement’s intervention to solve.

So helpful and accepted are these agreements that California courts are experimenting with the creation of visitation plans for a divorcing or separating couple’s pets.

How Pets are Treated Under the Law in an Ohio Divorce or Separation

Many pet owners see their furry companions as “part of the family,” and being denied access to a longtime companion because of a divorce or separation can be quite traumatic for some people. There are those who believe that separations can be traumatic or detrimental to a pet, too. Yet all states have traditionally viewed pets as an item of property to be divided by the courts. One party would typically receive full ownership rights over the animal or creature, and the other party would have no rights to visit the pet or participate in the care of the animal.

California’s Pioneering Approach to Pet Custody and Visitation

With the passage of AB 2274, California has become the third state in the country (the other two being Alaska and Illinois) to pass legislation that empowers courts to treat the family pet more like a child or family member than like property in a divorce or separation. Courts can still give sole custody of the animal to one party or the other, or courts can enter other orders – including shared visitation orders – regarding the animal if the court finds such orders to be in the “best interest” of the animal.

Options for Ohioans who are Divorcing or Separating

In states like Ohio (which does not have a law similar to those passed in California, Alaska, or Illinois), people who are separating or divorcing and who are concerned about the family pet have fewer options available to them if they and the other parties in their cases want the family’s pet. One of the surest ways to help guarantee access to an animal that both parties want is to create a shared agreement with the other party. That is, if you and your ex-spouse or former partner can reach an agreement (either on your own or through mediation), an Ohio court will generally honor that agreement and make it an enforceable order of the court.

When No Agreement is Possible – Awarding Pet Custody to One Person or the Other

Where there is no agreement between the parties regarding a family pet, courts will award the pet to one person or another based on factors such as who paid any adoption fee for the pet, who pays for the food and medical bills of the pet, and who is primarily responsible for caring for the animal. Ohio courts are not empowered to create custody arrangements of their own regarding an animal (at least not yet), no matter how upsetting separation from the family pet might be for the estranged person or the animal.

Can Dawes Legal, LLC Help Me with My Divorce or Separation?

Presenting evidence and testimony necessary to have a greater chance in being awarded possession of a family pet in a divorce or other family law proceeding can be challenging for some. An Ohio family law attorney from Dawes Legal, LLC strives to help you achieve the best result possible in your family law matter. Contact Dawes Legal, LLC at (614) 733-9999 to learn more.