Divorce isn't easy for family pets either

Posted: February 29, 2012

LOS ANGELES - They still fight like cats and dogs in divorce court. But more and more they are fighting about cats and dogs.

Custody cases involving pets are on the rise across the country.

In a 2006 survey by the 1,600-member American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, a quarter of respondents said pet- custody cases had increased noticeably since 2001. Breakups in same-sex marriages, civil unions and domestic partnerships are among reasons pet-custody fights have become more common, attorneys said.

Pet-custody cases have grown as much as 15 percent in his office over the last five years, said attorney David Pisarra of Santa Monica.

He is his own best example. He shares custody of 8-year-old Dudley, a longhaired standard black-and-tan dachshund, with his ex, who has remarried and introduced a step-dog to Dudley.

Pet consultant Steven May hired Pisarra six years ago to handle his divorce. Besides a daughter, May and his wife, Nina, worked out custody of three dogs, two cats and Tequila the parrot.

Pisarra and May became friends and often take their dogs for walks in Santa Monica. They also teamed up last year to write a book about co-parenting a pet with an ex titled What About Wally?

Pets are considered property in every state in the country. For years, they have been divvied up like furniture during divorce proceedings. But times are changing.

"There is a shifting consciousness," Pisarra said. "Pets are being given greater consideration under the law."

After their 2006 breakup, Pisarra and Jay Redd worked out shared custody, long-distance visitation and a new family (including a beagle) in Dudley's life, Pisarra said. Today, they live in the same city, so visitation no longer includes flight time.

The two have a plan for everyday, vacation and holiday schedules, travel arrangements, doggie day-care, boarding, food, treats, grooming, vet care, moving and end-of-life decisions. They split costs and sometimes, with things like toys, leashes and dog bowls, they buy two of each so Dudley has one at each home.

|
|
|
|
|