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Should you consider a pet custody and sharing agreement?

On Behalf of | Mar 28, 2024 | Divorce

Some Rhode Island lawmakers have worked to enact a “pet custody” law that would direct judges to consider what’s in a pet’s best interests when determining where they will live following a couple’s divorce. Other states have similar laws already in place.

A bill addressing pet custody died in the Rhode Island Senate two years ago after passing in the House of Representatives – and raising hopes that the state would no longer consider pets part of a property division settlement along with houses, book collections and cars. It remains to be seen whether a future bill on this subject can succeed.

In the meantime, you don’t have to wait for the law to catch up to how you feel about your pet. You and your soon-to-be ex can negotiate an agreement regarding your animal(s)’ custody, support and care. These are sometimes called a pet custody and sharing agreement. You can think of it as a parenting plan for pets.

What should the agreement cover?

What this agreement addresses is up to you. However, it’s wise to include provisions on:

  • Who will be the pet’s primary caregiver
  • How often the other spouse can spend time with them (including bringing them to their home for a time) and how far they can take them (for example, on vacation)
  • How expenses like vet bills, food, grooming, daycare and more will be split
  • Who will make important medical and end-of-life decisions
  • How disagreements will be settled

If you have children whom you’ll be co-parenting, you may want your pet to move between homes with them. There may come a time, however, when these transitions become too difficult for an aging pet.

With experienced legal guidance, you can negotiate an agreement that takes into consideration what’s best for them. Settling this important matter during your divorce can give you and your family greater peace of mind in this regard going forward.