Divorce disputes over pet ownership becoming more common

Americans love their pets. For many pet owners, a dog or cat provides companionship and unconditional love. What's more, aside from food, water and the occasional scratch behind the ear, a dog or cat doesn't ask for much in return. It's no wonder, therefore, that a recent poll conducted by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers revealed that divorce cases involving pet custody disputes are increasing.

Obviously, for parents with minor aged children, child custody disputes are emotional and difficult. When it comes to divorce and disputes over pets, many pet owners also experience tremendous emotional turmoil. However, when it comes to divorce, pets are regarded by the courts as property and therefore only one spouse retains ownership of a pet.

When deciding which spouse should retain ownership of a pet, the courts may look at a number of things. For example, if one spouse owned a dog or cat prior to the marriage, it's likely that spouse would retain ownership. In cases where a couple purchased or acquired a pet during the course of a marriage, other factors related to which spouse fed a pet, took a pet to the vet or for walks may also be taken into consideration.

In cases where a divorcing couple is able to come to an agreement about a pet custody or visitation arrangement, it's best to put things in writing. Not only does a custody or visitation schedule need to be worked out, but financial responsibilities related to a pet's care should also be discussed and agreed upon.

Divorces are full of many contentious and highly emotional issues. For many couples with children, decisions related to child custody are often heart wrenching. For many divorcing couples, ownership and possible custody or visitation issues related to a pet are also a major concern.

Source: Parade, "In a Divorce, Who Gets the Pets?," Michele C. Hollow, Aug. 18, 2014

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