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Pet custody: your pet is property unless you do something

Having a pet can be a very rewarding experience for the owners. They learn responsibility, and they learn to love an animal as a family member. But think about a pet in the context of a divorce. If you and your spouse file for divorce, who would get your pet? How is the pet dealt with in a divorce?

Pet custody is a little difficult simply because it is still a budding area of family law. However, there are plenty of pet custody cases that have been handled well. Unfortunately, there are also examples of pet custody cases being handled poorly. This is because pets are legally considered pieces of property during a divorce. So if the spouses don’t have an agreement in place before heading to court, the pet will be handled as a piece of property — and that can lead to messy and devastating results.

Pet custody can be resolved with a custom arrangement, which is the best option no matter how you look at it. Not only can you avoid the potentially painful ruling that would rip your pet away from you forever, but the custom arrangement allows you and your soon-to-be-ex to craft specialized rules and provisions that can help you effectively manage a shared pet custody situation.

Look, pet custody can indeed be a tricky topic in a divorce. But if you are prepared and you and your spouse can mediate the situation in a fair and responsible way, then there’s no reason you can’t achieve a successful pet custody arrangement before going to court.

Source: Animal Legal & Historical Center, “Custody of Pets in Divorce,” Tabby McLain, 2009

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