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Divorce issues now address custody of pets

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Many Texas couples have pets that are dearly loved as members of the family. While there is a myriad of divorce issues to address when any marriage ends, pet custody is becoming an increasingly common topic. Some states have recently changed their approach when pets are involved in divorce disputes.

Pets had typically been considered as personal property in divorce proceedings by most courts. A determination would be made as to what property belonged to each spouse or what was theirs as a couple. Then, some agreement would be made about which person got the item. However, animal advocates stress that a pet is obviously not like a table or chair.

Pet custody cases have increased over the past five years. Though primarily involving dogs and cats, other animals involved in these cases have included iguanas, pythons and giant turtles. Shared custody has been awarded in some cases, as well as visitation rights and alimony. Some states allow for pets to be named in people's estates and trusts.

Proponents of this trend believe that an animal's best interest should be considered in a divorce or separation. Specifically, the court should address which partner took care of the pet most often. Also, the separating couple should determine which of their lifestyles would better accommodate the pet.

There are many divorce issues to consider for Texas couples -- whether or not they have pets. It is important to have guidance to navigate the complex issues of divorce proceedings. An experienced family law attorney can provide much-needed assistance when a marriage ends. A lawyer will focus on a client's specific situation and fight for the best outcome possible in the case.

Source: The New York Times, "When couples divorce, who gets to keep the dog (or cat)?", Christopher Mele, March 23, 2017

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