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Navigating pet custody issues during divorce

If you are a pet owner, you likely consider your pets to be members of the family. However, it is important that you understand that the law does not usually view your dogs, cats and other animals in the same way. Generally, if you divorce you and your spouse will be compelled to treat your pets as a matter for your property division settlement if you disagree on how their care should be addressed in the wake of your divorce.

As the director of litigation for the Animal Legal Defense Fund recently explained, “In the eyes of the law, (pets) are really no different than the silverware, the cars, the home.”

Some courts do treat pets as beings whose care should be settled by a custody dispute as opposed to a property division dispute. In these cases, it is possible to be awarded sole or joint custody of a pet. Though if the pet was owned by one spouse or another at the beginning of a marriage, the custody of that pet generally reverts back to the original owner unless a compelling case can be made for alternate arrangements.

Because different courts have adopted different approaches to the care of pets in the wake of a divorce, it is important to consult the advice of an experienced family law attorney if you have questions or concerns about how your divorce may affect your pet’s fate. You and your attorney may be able to negotiate arrangements that reflect the best interests of your pet and honor the affections that you have for him or her.

Source: The Huffington Post, “Who Gets The Pets In A Divorce? What You Need To Consider When Fighting Over Fido,” Maria Moya, Jan. 19, 2014

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