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Who gets Fido and Fluffy in the divorce?

If you have been divorced – or you are involved in a divorce now – you know that there are countless decisions to be made. This is a time of change, and you must make choices that could affect you both now and in the future. Clearly, important considerations include who will get the marital home, who will have primary custody of the children, whether spousal support/alimony is appropriate and how marital assets and debts will be divided. An often over-looked but increasingly relevant issue in a divorce is the custody of the family pet. 

For many couples, particularly those without children, pets are seen not as property (as they are legally considered in nearly every state), but as members of the family. As such, many people lavish their pets with the same love, affection and protectiveness that they would give to a child. By understanding that may people do view pets akin to children, then the results of a recent survey performed by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers comes as no surprise: 25 percent of attorneys surveyed reported a rise in the number of divorcing clients involved in disputes about pet custody. 

The issue of pet custody has become almost commonplace now. Whereas just a few decades ago it would likely have been seen as extraordinary for particular provisions of a divorce decree to deal expressly with a pet, it is now relatively unremarkable that some couples choose to specifically declare who gets custody of their pets, whether the other party is entitled to visitation rights with the animal, and how expenses associated with the pet's health care, dental care, grooming, feeding and other needs will be split. 

Should you find yourself embroiled in a divorce-related dispute about the custody or care of your pets, a family law attorney might be able to help you craft a workable solution that both protects your pets' interests and meets your needs. 

Source: Parade Magazine, “In a divorce, who gets the pets?” Michelle Hollow, August 18, 2014. 

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