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Pet custody becoming common in divorce proceedings

When New York residents think of the custody issues involved in a divorce, they might view the issue as it concerns children and not pets. Divorcing couples might be surprised to learn that even though they may consider their pet a part of the family, it is considered personal property under the law. However, it has become more common for people to determine pet custody as part of their divorce settlements.

Divorce attorneys are becoming increasingly aware of pet custody cases, and judges are finding themselves handling pet custody cases that are treated unlike the division of assets and more like child custody cases. Judges are approaching these cases with an open mind, considering a number of factors in deciding where a pet will live after a marriage dissolves.

Judges have awarded visitation or custody to one divorcing spouse or the other after reviewing testimony by a pet’s owners and expert witnesses. In some cases, judges have even assigned pet support payments for the pet’s care and maintenance to the spouse who does not receive custody. When deciding which spouse should receive custody of a pet, courts have examined the parties’ finances, work schedules and the attachment the couple’s children might have to the pet.

Deciding who will keep the family pet after a divorce can be heart-wrenching. A person faced with marital dissolution might benefit from discussing the issue with an attorney and attempting reach an amicable agreement with his or her ex-spouse before resorting to the court system. If an amicable agreement is impossible, an attorney could identify the advantages a pet would have by living with one party and present them to a judge, emphasizing those factors that may have resulted in a favorable custody award in other courts.

Source: The Huffington Post, “Who Gets the Family Dog After Divorce?“, Nancy May, November 10, 2013

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