People in Hamilton may tend to imbue their pets with human-like properties, referring to them as their best friends or as members of their family. While dogs, cats and other pets certainly do offer a greater level of companionship and shared affection than a standard piece of property, that is how they are viewed during divorce proceedings. Rather than rule on the custody of pets as it would with children, courts tend to determine their ownership during property division proceedings. Yet that is a principle that many have expressed a desire to see changed.
Among those is a Rhode Island woman trying to wrest joint ownership of her two dogs away from her ex-husband. The two share the dogs, dividing time with them between their two residences. Yet the woman recently attempted to end her ex-husband's contact with the dogs after she claimed that they were injured while with him and that he deliberately hid one from her when she came to pick them up. The ex-husband responded to her attempt to keep him from seeing the dogs by filing a motion with the family court to enforce the terms of their separation agreement (which gave both the right to custody of the animals). The judge hearing the case agreed with his claim and ordered that he be allowed to take the dogs again.
The issue in determining pet custody is that, unlike with children, courts have no way to determine what might be in a pet's best interests when both owners display an affection towards them. Thus, pet owners are left to argue why their individual claim to ownership is strongest. Those hoping to do so may find themselves a powerful ally in the form of an experienced divorce attorney.