Best Interests of Pets May be Considered in NY Divorces

Divorce Bill Considers Best Interests of Pets in NY

A bill pending Governor Cuomo's signature proposes that pets receive the same rights as children in legal custody matters. The ‘best interests’ of a pet are thought to be as important as those of children, but currently, pets are treated as property under the state’s laws.

“Someone’s cat or someone’s dog is a part of their family and should not be treated like a piece of furniture or their Honda Civic,” according to the bill’s chief sponsor, Senator James Skoufis. That being said, spouses have resorted to “petnups” to help avoid heated courtroom battles over who gets custody over the family pet. Mediators in the Empire State have seen a growing number of spouses draft these “petnups” to prevent a judge from deciding the fate of their pet-owner relationship.

However, Senate Bill S4248 aims to require the court to consider the best interest of a companion animal when awarding possession in a divorce or separation proceeding. Factors such as domestic violence could be considered when awarding custody of the family pet, as well as other factors that are considered when determining the best interests of a child, potentially. Some of these considerations may include, but aren’t limited to:

  • The emotional ties and relationships between the pet and the owners, siblings, family and household members, or other members
  • The owners’ capacity to provide a safe home and adequate food, clothing, and medical care
  • The health needs of the pet
  • The mental and physical health of the owners
  • The presence of domestic violence in the home

With this in mind, experts argue that pets are better off remaining in one home environment rather than switching back and forth between homes. Karis Nafte, an animal behaviorist for nearly 26 years, has worked as a pet custody specialist for divorcing couples who are going through mediation. In her opinion, visitation schedules or shared custody is worse for companion animals, primarily, dogs and cats, which is why she recommends prioritizing pet custody in divorce negotiations to help make the process more efficient.

As such, an increasing number of attorneys, marriage therapists, and animal experts are advocating for more laws to empower judges to consider the emotional needs of pets. Some argue that stress placed on family members during divorce proceedings also impacts the emotional wellbeing and health of pets. Therefore, divorcing spouses in New York should heavily consider the custody of their pets in pre-trial negotiations, or else those furry family members may be treated as property by a family court judge.

As experienced mediation lawyers, clients in Dutchess County can come to our firm if they are looking for solutions to their pet custody battles. Believe it or not, this seems to be one of the most pressing matters in New York divorces, as pets are considered family, too. Thus, pets are often placed on the same pedestal as children in divorce matters.

Should Senate Bill S4248 pass, judges would have more leeway to consider the best interests of pets as they do for children in divorce matters. This means that if you are considering or in the midst of a divorce, you should speak to a knowledgeable and reliable lawyer to get legal counsel on your situation, such as our very own at the Law Office of Dennis R. Vetrano, Jr., LLC. We help clients in Dutchess County achieve mutually agreeable solutions on all aspects of their divorce, including pet custody.

Come talk to us about your situation today. Schedule your consultation online or at (845) 605-4330!

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