A very concerning issue for many people facing divorce is what will happen to the family pet. Currently, the law recognizes pets as property which will be divided in a final divorce decree pursuant to RSA 458:16-a. Property distribution factors were recently discussed here. A court is more likely to permanently award a pet to one of the parties rather than ordering a "shared parenting" arrangement. On the one hand, the law is not able to recognize that pets have strong emotional ties and separation from that pet will be much more detrimental to a family member than the loss of a kitchen table or a television. On the other hand, enforcing a court order with a "shared parenting" schedule and calls for division of vet and doggie daycare expenses could place an additional burden on the all ready over-worked courts.
Attorney Danny Meeks, who publishes the Pet Trust Law Blog, recently wrote about these issues in a posting called "Is your pet a family member subject to ‘shared parenting.’" Attorney Meeks sited interesting pending legislation in Massachusetts that would grant court’s the authority to restrain a party from a pet in a temporary domestic violence restraining order.