Divorce: Rule on pet custody or property division?

Many people with a family pet feel there is no price tag that could be put on their pet. That Fido of Fluffy do not have monetary values and are rather considered priceless, just like any other member of the family. And while of course this is true, when it comes to divorce and who should get custody of the pets, this area of the law is lacking hard and fast rules.

For some spouses who are going through a divorce, deciding who should get the pets is something fought about in the courts. For others, depending on the state, judges refuse to look at pets as anything more than property and decide accordingly. In other cases, a judge won’t even rule on the pet issue and it’s up to the ex-spouses to work something out.

In those cases where the issue of pet custody does wind up before a judge, some courts choose to treat the situation similar to child custody by establishing visitation schedules and stipulating how medical care and pet daycare — if necessary — will be handled.

However, as previously mentioned, the laws regarding pets vary. For example, in states where a pet is strictly considered just property, in order to assess how property should be divided the value of the pet needs to be determined. In many cases this will mean that while a pure breed show-winning dog may be worth a substantial amount, the family mixed-breed will not be worth as much from a financial standpoint. Of course to the owners who believe their pet is priceless, this way of looking at things is hard to understand.

Of course this is not a new area of law. Many times couples are willing to spend thousands of dollars in the courtroom in order to fight for their pet. As this trend continues, the hope is that more consistency from state to state is adopted to handle pet custody disputes.

Source: The Huffington Post, “Pet Custody,” Henry Gornbein, Oct, 23, 2012

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