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Pet-related considerations during divorce

Many pet owners understandably view their pets as family members. As a result, it can be uniquely stressful to contemplate where these pets will live when their owners get divorced. Although the law traditionally treats pets as property, it can be tempting to treat pet matters like one would child custody arrangements. Thankfully, this is the approach that a number of jurisdictions are already taking in regards to pet considerations during divorce proceedings.

Whether or not the judge presiding over your case tends to take a property division approach or a pet custody approach, you and your spouse can opt to craft pet custody arrangements independently. Essentially, you and your attorneys would either negotiate the terms of a pet custody agreement or you would treat pet custody as a matter for mediation.

Certainly, this approach can break down if you or your spouse is unwilling to reach an agreement outside of litigation. If you and your spouse cannot agree to pet custody arrangements with the aid of your attorneys, a judge will ultimately decide how to settle issues involving your pets.

If a judge is compelled to intervene, custody will likely be given to whomever purchased the pet and cared for it before the marriage was finalized. If the pet was purchased during the marriage, it is likely that the judge will want to keep the pet with whomever cared for it primarily, although there are certainly exceptions to this general guideline. If you have questions about your specific pet-related situation, your attorney will likely be able to guide you through your concerns.

Source: The Huffington Post, “A Love Contract to Help Pets Deal With Parents' Breakup,” Ann Margaret Carrozza, June 30, 2015

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