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How can I keep a pet in a divorce?

If you and your spouse have decided its time to draw up papers and move forward with your divorce, reaching fair agreements about property division can be one of the most difficult aspects of the process. Even more difficult than determining who keeps the car and who gets the record collection is who legally has the right to keep a family pet. For many divorcing couples, a pet is much more like a family member than a piece of property, and this can lead to spouses entering into a sort of custody negotiation over an animal companion.

This conflict is entirely understandable, but the law tends to view pets through a different sense than pet owners do. In the eyes of the law, a pet is not a person, and therefore the cat is essentially as much a piece of property as the family car. While this may seem harsh, it is simply the way that the law looks at the matter. If you want to increase the chances of a fair resolution to your dilemma as a loving pet owner, it is wise to understand the way that a judge is likely to see the issue.

Many pet owning spouses seek to create some form of pet custody agreement, which generally is not well-received in a court. In the eyes of the law, such a couple might as well be asking for a court-ordered custody agreement over motorcycle. If you and your spouse do wish to negotiate a "custody arrangement" between each other, you are certainly permitted to do so, but it is very unlikely that a court will want anything to do with enforcing it.

In most cases, one spouse emerges as the ongoing owner of the pet. Spouses who wish to make keeping the pet a priority may consider approaching this the same way one would approach any property division negotiation — by sacrificing other assets to keep the pet.

These kinds of issues where the human understanding of a matter does not seem to align with the law can be very frustrating. It is often helpful to enlist the aid of an attorney to guide you through this process and help ensure that you protect your rights and achieve your priorities in a divorce.

Source: Huffington Post, "Who Gets The Pets In A Divorce? What You Need To Consider When Fighting Over Fido," Maria Moya, accessed July 28, 2017

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