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Pet custody issues affected by divorce

Some individuals refer to pets as their “children.” Others recognize their pets as beloved members of their family. In either case, it is clear that Americans view pets not so much as property but as loyal companions. As a result, it can be difficult for couples who love their pets to figure out how to handle their care post-divorce.

In many jurisdictions, pet issues are treated as a matter of property division. In others, pets are treated as the subject of custody disputes. In either case, it is important for couples to speak with their attorneys about pet-related issues. If both spouses wish to either keep their pets or share custody of them, this potentially contentious divorce issue must be treated with care.

If a pet was already owned by one spouse before the marriage began, it is likely that custody of the pet will revert back to the original owner. However, spouses have been able to make the case that it is in the pet’s best interest to remain with the other spouse or that the other spouse deserves joint custody or visitation rights.

If a property division or custody dispute about a pet gets heated, it is important for both owners to step back and consider what is best for the pet. Just like parents must make custody decisions based on the best interests of their children, pet owners may more easily reach a viable solution to the issue if they both consider what arrangement will be best for the pet.

Source: Huffington Post, “Who Gets the Family Dog After Divorce?” Nancy Kay, Nov. 10, 2013

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