Numerous Louisiana families consider their pets as part of the family. They care for them, love them and keep them healthy. However, current Louisiana law treats pets as property in the divorce process.
What one state is doing might change that, though. As of Jan. 17, the country's northernmost state requires judges to consider the best interests of a pet in a divorce. Judges are given wide discretion when it comes to the new law. Even joint custody arrangements can be ordered if the circumstances of the case warrant them.
In addition, Alaska now protects pets in domestic violence situations. Restraining orders against an alleged abuser now protect animals as well. Applying restraining orders to pets is allowed in at least 31 states, including Louisiana, so that provision is not unusual. This is largely because 25 to 40 percent of individuals refuse to leave an abusive relationship over concerns for their pets, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. However, Alaska's order can now include a provision for the alleged abuser to provide funds for the animal's care.
Will Louisiana take further steps to protect people's pets in divorce? No one knows as of yet, so it remains to be seen. However, as the country's attitude toward its pets as family members continues to grow, it might become a consideration. For now, the divorce process continues to treat them as property in nearly every state. Fortunately, there is no restriction on couple's creating their own arrangements for their pets, so the more amicable the couple is, the greater the possibility that they can reach an agreement that benefits them and their pets.
Source: The Huffington Post, "In Alaska, Divorce Courts Must Now Consider Pet Wellbeing", Hilary Hanson, Jan. 26, 2017