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Pet custody a growing concern in divorce cases

California couples who are facing divorce may have more to think about than issues around support, child custody and the division of community property. Increasingly, couples are negotiating what happens to their pets after a split as well.

While the law traditionally considers pets to be property in the same way that furniture is, many people do not feel this way about their pets, and some ccourts are changing their views as well. While couples negotiate visitation arrangements regarding pets that resemble those that they might make for children, a 2013 landmark case in New York resulted in a court conducting a one-day hearing to consider the best interests of a couple's dog as well as of the couple in relation to the dog's care.

In that case, one individual had given a dog to the other as a gift. The giver of the dog argued that she had financially supported the dog while the individual who was given the dog argued that she was the dog's original owner. The standard used by the court was one of the "best for all concerned." Meanwhile, some couples are addressing the issue head-on by including pets in prenuptial agreements.

Whether pet custody is an issue or there are concerns over asset division or support, a person who is contemplating a divorce may wish to consult an attorney who has experience in family law matters. Even in an amicable split, negotiating property division, child custody and other aspects of divorce may be best done with legal assistance. A divorce settlement agreement that is explicit about these points can better protect everyone involved.

Source: USA Today, "Pets increasingly at center of divorce battles", Cameron Saucier, Aug. 24, 2014

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