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Pet custody cases are more complex than you may think

One of the most contentious issues that can arise in a divorce is child custody. If the splitting spouses can’t agree on who gets physical custody, or how a custody schedule will work, or how support payments will be made, then it’s off to family court to leave your child’s best interests up to a judge. Usually, though, the splitting spouses can agree on some form of shared custody.

We bring this up not just because it is a very important element in many divorces, but because, in a different context, the matter of custody can be just as important to a family without a child: what happens to your family pet when a married couple calls it quits?

These cases are actually more common than you might think. The solutions to these cases, however, are rarely simple. In general, pets are considered a piece of property. That can cause all sorts of problems, because many pet custody cases are more nuanced than just dealing with “some property.” So what can pet owners do to try to alleviate the stresses involved with dealing with pet custody during divorce?

First of all, remember that you and your soon-to-be-ex spouse can reach an agreement before going to court regarding your pet. You can work out a schedule, designate training rules, and even include pet custody support payments into such an agreement. However, if such an accord can’t be agreed, then you’ll need to go to court. At that point, you’re best off providing as much evidence as possible explaining why you are the best possible owner for the pet. Receipts of the supplies you have bought; establishing the amount of time you spend with the pet; and your work history or living situation can all play a role in proving your worth as a pet owner.

Source: Huffington Post, “Who Gets the Family Dog After Divorce?,” Nancy Kay, Nov. 10, 2013

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