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Article image Divorce And Custody Battles - Over The Family Pet

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Posted On Fri, Jan 4th 2013 Posted by : Staff

Even under the most amicable circumstances, divorce proceedings can become very messy when custody battles are involved. Of course, until recently, everyone always believed that custody battles were limited to the children from the marriage. Now, however, a new trend has been emerging in the court room where spouses are demanding custody of the family dog, along with visitation rights and support payments.

How The Court Currently Views Pets

When you look into the law concerning pets, they are viewed as personal property. Our divorce lawyers at explain that under this law, the courts only have the authority of awarding ownership to one of the two parties involved in the divorce. To legally award joint custody for a pet under the law, would be the same as awarding joint custody of the television or sofa.

However, pet owners have a much stronger opinion about their pets then a black and white property law, and the courts have begun to be a little more creative when pets are involved.

Understanding Property Rights In The Eyes Of The Court

When a divorce is placed before the court, it must determine the ownership rights of all the marital assets. It must be determined who owned what property prior to the marriage, what was bought with joint funding during the marriage, and what should remain separate, even though it was purchased during the course of the marriage.

This can be a very hard thing to do, and most of this is worked out prior to entering into the courtroom by a post-nuptial agreement between both parties. The court must approve these agreements before the property is distributed. The courts are now finding that part of these agreements are including support payments for the family dog, visitation rights and joint ownership responsibilities such as covering medical bills.

While many courts have upheld these agreements, many others are frowning on this growing trend. There are many implications and legal issues that can and will arise if this becomes the norm during divorce proceedings.

Many Unanswered Questions

If this trend continues, the court will be facing a multitude of legal questions that are sure to keep the courts busy for the next few decades. The definition of pet will have to be clearly defined. At this time, only dogs have received this type of attention in the courts. Will cats, hamsters and goldfish all qualify for support payments in the future? There is also the question of ownership versus who is better fit to care for the pet. If one party bought the pet and the pet is more attached to the second party, who in fact is the rightful owner? These questions can go on and on, leading to years of litigation.

In the end, it is probably better for the two people involved in the divorce to work out an agreement over the pet and leave it out of their divorce paperwork. While divorce is very hard for all parties involved, an extended battle over the family pet could lead to more trouble and expense than anticipated. Most couples simply want to part ways and do so quickly. 

Georgina Clatworthy is a legal writer and former editor for a respected law blog.  She contributes this article for, a firm of experienced divorce attorneys.  Divorce can be difficult for all concerned, not just the human parties.  The division of assets can be a tricky area and hiring a lawyer maybe the best way to ensure you both leave the marriage on an equal footing.


San Jose Divorce Lawyer Says:

Apr 1, 2013 11:04 PM

Thanks for sharing with us such a informative article post.I agree with you,there are many problems and legal issues that will arise.Visit the website,If you want to solve your divorce and child custody matter.

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