Pet Custody Wars: Who Gets The Pet?

By Maureen Mespell

May 7, 2012 Updated May 8, 2012 at 2:22 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, In. (Indiana's NewsCenter) -- A divorce is rarely simple. There are many factors involved and for some, who gets the pet is one of the biggest battles.

Some treat their animals as if they were their children.

A local woman who shared her dog with her ex-husband made it work after their divorce but many can't do what she and her ex-husband did.

But just as many people make things work for their children, this former couple made things work for their dog.

Divorce is never easy breaking apart a family makes it even tougher even when part of that family is man's best friend. Amy Womack says, "She was sad, she lingered, she didn't really attach to any of us, she wanted to be with him."

Bingo meant everything to Amy and her ex-husband. Even though they couldn't make their relationship work, they knew they had to make things right for their dog.

"She didn't have that happiness in her life anymore," says Womack. "She didn't run around like a puppy, she just laid around and sulked."

Amy knew Bingo missed her ex-husband and needed time with him, as well as her. For them it worked for about 4 years, until Bingo passed away. But for many couples it isn't as easy.

Chris LaPan is an attorney in Fort Wayne. He says often when couples try to share pets after divorce it leads to fights because of how the law is written. Chris says, "Under the law, right now as it stands, the television is treated exactly the same as somebody's pet."

But dog lovers like Amy say their pets mean much more than any "item" would ever mean to them. "My dogs are not items. They have feelings, they have their heart beat, they bleed the same as us, there's no way you can say they're an item."

LaPan even agrees the law is a bit outdated.

"Let's be frank here, the pet is nothing but an innocent bystander to two parties who can't get along in a marriage, and so most people are reasonable enough to treat the situation accordingly. People are ahead of the game relative to the way our statute reads because most people simply don't treat these animals as personal property."

Bingo lived to be 15 years old. Amy credits her long life to their decision to make sure she had time with both her and her ex-husband.

Similar arrangements to shared custody can be made for visitation with pets, but often times it isn't done that way.

Part of the reason is the way the law reads it says animals are property.

Another reason is because that costs more to have attorneys draft that paperwork.

Often times they create those schedules themselves and often that's why it can be hard for it to be successful.

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