Animal companions enrich our lives in many ways, but in divorce, a beloved pet can become an acrimonious issue.

New York, NY- Americans—and New Yorkers—love their pets. Millions of households across the nation have a cat, dog or other pet which they care deeply for and would do anything to protect. But when it comes to divorce, pets are treated as property and not a beloved member of the family. Divorce courts in New York and the rest of the country are regularly called on to resolve disputes over pet custody, and one state may change how the issue is decided.

Alaska could change how pets are treated in divorce

Most divorce courts view pets as assets. A cat or dog is treated like a piece of property to be divided, and their well-being rarely factors in deciding where they’ll live, but Alaska may be a vanguard in this area of divorce law. A newly enacted amendment to the state’s divorce laws will require courts to treat pets more like children and less like property when a couple divorces. The Washington Post reports that the new law requires divorce courts to take “into consideration the well-being of the animal” and gives judges the latitude to award joint custody.

The legislation allows pets to be included in protective orders when domestic violence is an issue, the Washington Post reports. It also orders individuals who have their pets seized for neglect or cruelty to pay for the animal’s shelter.

The laws only apply in Alaska, but it could influence other states to adopt the same principles in the future. The issue of pet custody isn’t going away, and many divorce attorneys are asked to help with this very emotional issue. Courts should begin to see the family pet as more than property and recognize the way people feel about their pets.

A new law in Alaska calls on divorce courts to consider the best interests of a pet in pet custody cases.

Factors that should be considered in pet custody cases

If possible, conflicts over pet custody should be decided out of court until the laws in New York evolve. Below are some questions to consider about pet custody:

Why do you want to keep the pet? Make sure you don’t want to take the pet because you are angry at your ex-husband or ex-wife.

Which spouse has the time to care for the animal? One spouse may work longer hours than others, so they don’t have time to take care of the animal.

Who have the financial means to care for the pet? Veterinary care, food, and other pet needs can be very costly, so the person who has custody of a pet must be able to afford their care.

How old is the pet? Older pets don’t like to be shuffled around and moving them can be bad for their health.

If you have a pet and you and your estranged spouse need help with custody, we recommend you speak with a divorce lawyer in New York, New York. USAttorneys can connect you with an attorney today, and you can get the advice you need.

A divorce attorney will help you and your estranged spouse with pet custody issues.