Sunday, December 14, 2008

Flavor of the day... again

Ok, even I'm starting to get a little tired of all the "pet custody" articles... although I still admit every little bit of publicity helps to raise public awareness, at least among the shrinking numbers of folks who would have to live under a rock to not have heard about this by now.

Just a week after The UK Guardian ran a big feature on the topic (scroll below), competitor The Sunday Times (not surprisingly - and acknowledgments to everyone else whose articles pre-dated The Guardian's piece) is offering an article by Roger Waite entitled "Forget the kids – now custody battles are switching to Fido" .

Nothing really new in the article (under you're a rock dweller...), although I was intrigued by his closing observation: "In America, disputes are often resolved through “calling contests”, in which the animal is placed between the feuding couple and custody is given to whoever the dog runs to first."


Maybe that's how the colonies resolved such disputes, but dude, really. If anyone out there can actually point to a case caption with an appellate decision - or even a written trial order - verifying that this is how a modern-day U.S. judge actually decided a "pet custody" issue, please let me know.

Coincidentally, a colleague recently told me he had a divorce client many years back (he's 82 now) who he advised to stuff his pockets with dog treats at the hearing for just that reason. The result? The judge awarded the dog to the wife anyway. Unless she stuffed her pockets with raw meat, the husband's shenanigans - while amusing - did not get him anything other than perhaps a bigger dry-cleaning bill.

I would hope that judges who are progressive enough to look at companion animals as more than just part of the property settlement are also sophisticated enough to decide the issue based upon more than just who the dog runs to first at the hearing.

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