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Custody of a pet can be a major issue in divorce

Imagine that you and your spouse have been married for many years. At some point in the marriage, the two of you decided that you didn't want to have kids. Instead, you decided you wanted to share a pet. So you two got a dog, and you have loved and cared for it ever since.

But then one day, your marriage just starts to fall apart like it has to countless other marriages over time. There's no one thing you can point to and say "this is why my marriage is failing." It's just one of those things -- after many years together, you and your spouse are falling out of love. So the two of you make the tough decision to file for divorce.

Of course, it quickly dawns on the two of you that you have this fun, lovely dog lying in the middle of your living room. There's one of him; and there's two of you. How is this going to work?

The first thing to realize about this situation is that as easy as it may be to panic about the fate of your dog, resist that panic. Pet custody disputes are actually somewhat common in family law today.

However, that doesn't mean the solution is simple. In many cases, the spouses are able to come to an agreement about how pet custody will work. Usually this agreement is similar to a child custody arrangement, right down to visitation schedules and financial arrangements. But there are cases where the splitting spouses aren't able to agree on pet custody.

In these cases, a court will determine what happens to your dog -- and this can be problematic for everyone involved. Pets are technically property, and that can lead to some very obtuse decisions by judges, decisions that neither spouse is particularly happy about.

Whenever pet custody is raised as an issue, the two spouses need to think long and hard about the issue -- and while doing this, they should consult with an attorney to ensure all of the legal angles are covered.

Source: Huffington Post, "Divorce Confidential: The Fight for Your Pet in Divorce," Caroline Choi, Sept. 24, 2014

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