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Determining who gets the dog in a divorce

If you are an animal lover, you know how devastating it is to lose a pet. If you and your spouse are going through divorce, you both may be haggling over who gets to keep the family dog or cat.

If the two of you don't reach accord on your own, the matter could get settled in a courtroom by the judge presiding over your divorce.

How do judges rule in cases involving the custody of pets?

Many couples are surprised to learn that the decision about with whom Wags will live is not determined the same way decisions involving child custody are. Instead, your much-loved fur baby is treated like other community property under Arizona's laws.

However, some more enlightened family court judges and divorce mediators are beginning to base their decisions on what will be best for the pet.

For instance, judges may ask the parties which one was responsible for caring for the animal's needs, e.g., feeding, watering and walking, arranging vet and grooming appointments or attending obedience training along with the pet. Judges also might want to know if both parties are financially able to afford the ongoing care the pet will need.

Kids and pets should be kept together

Divorce is hard enough on the kids without them having to deal with separation from their four-legged BFF. Judges can avoid causing additional heartache to the children by ordering that the custodial parent also gets the pet.

When shared custody of the kids is awarded, the pet can move between the homes of the parents who have the children. Most dogs will adapt to such arrangements, but the kenneling and car rides may be too traumatic for most cats.

What happens in cases of multiple pets?

While on the surface this one seems to be easily resolved -- you get one dog, your spouse gets the other -- that solution fails to deal with pets that have been closely bonded. Especially with older pets who have been together all of their lives, as in the case of litter mates, it's unnecessarily cruel to separate them now.

Your family law attorney can help you fight for ownership of your beloved pets when dealing with a contested divorce.

Source: Healthy Pets, "The New Rules About Who Gets Your Family Pet in a Divorce," Dr. Karen Baker, accessed Aug. 04, 2017

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