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If you get a divorce, what happens to your pet?

There are many married couples out there that simply don’t want children. There’s nothing wrong with that — it’s their choice. Some of these couples may then choose to have a pet dog or cat, and this pet then becomes their proxy child. They love their little Rover or Mittens, and they would do anything for their pet.

But this situation can raise an interesting question. What happens if this couple were to file for divorce? What happens to that pet? Are there custody rules that allowed a splitting couple to make a decision about their dog or cat? Or are divorced couples at the mercy of the court when it comes to their pet?

The first thing to realize about pets is that, in most cases, they are considered a piece of property. Thus, your pet is subject to the property division laws in your state. However, take this with a grain of salt because some judges are sympathetic to the situation and will find fair ways to incorporate a pet into a divorce agreement. Additionally, some states have laws that address pet custody — and even if they don’t, the spouses involved in the divorce could work out an agreement outside of court so that the issues is resolved without the risk of a court making an unfair and unacceptable ruling.

When it comes to pet custody, remember that having civil conversations with your soon-to-be-ex are important if the two of you are committed to sharing pet custody duties.

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