Many people may equate a contested divorce in Indiana, with bitter arguments swirling around issues of child custody, alimony, property division and so forth.
A new trend, however, is being observed by child custody attorneys in Indiana and across the country: pet custody.
There are a number of theories behind this. Many people are having children much later in life than earlier generations. While these couples are waiting for the perfect time to enter into the lifelong commitment that is parenthood, they are less choosy about buying a pet together. These animals become members of the family, with both parties deeply invested. When the couple splits, the custody fight can be nearly as contentious as if it were a child.
Another reason for the growth of this type of disagreement stems from the increase in same-sex marriages. While Indiana does not allow this type of union, among states that do, this is an issue that is skyrocketing in prevalence.
The Associated Press reports that in a recent survey from the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML), more than a fourth said that cases involving pet custody have increased a great deal since 2001.
Often if there is a child involved, a judge will place the pet in the primary home of the child.
The question more frequently being raised, however, is: What if the animal is the child?
In all 50 states, animals are considered property. That means that judges and mediators have been working to divide them up just as they would the furniture or the beach house.
However, it seems that is changing. Ken Altshuler, president of the AAML, said judges are beginning to change the way they see the issue. They are starting to recognize the strong emotional attachments that people have to their pets, and therefore, it's being given a greater consideration under the law.
It may have been years ago that people were somewhat ashamed to battle for custody of a pet. Society may have viewed the animal as not much more than a life accessory. That's not the case anymore.
There have even been cases in which people split custody of the animals, with visitation schedules and all - much like they would in any Indiana child custody case. Usually, though, that is something that has to be worked out by the parties themselves.
Steven May, a pet consultant, even wrote a book about the issue, which he and his ex-wife wrestled with following their divorce more than five years ago after more than 15 years of marriage. They have since worked out an arrangement in which they share custody not only of their daughter, but of their pets.
It may seem strange to some, but any pet lover will tell you that a divorce is even more traumatic when you are facing the prospect of losing every aspect of the life you had - including your beloved pets. An Indiana divorce attorney can help you explore all your options, and figure out the best - and hopefully most amicable - solution for you.
Highland Child Custody Attorney Burton A. Padove offers free and confidential appointments on family law matters throughout Northwest Indiana, including Munster, Lansing, Porter and Crown Point. Call 219-836-2200.
Custody of the animal a common divorce spate, By Sue Manning, The Associated Press