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Pet custody disputes are becoming a key element in divorce

Here's a question for you: if you and your spouse divorce and you have a pet, who gets to keep Fido or Mittens or Polly?

The answer is far simpler -- and also far more complicated -- than some may think. The firs rule about dealing with pet custody issues in a divorce is that pets are widely considered pieces of property in family court. As a result, this can cause some heartbreaking rulings for splitting couples who take things to court, especially in a state like California where community property laws reign.

However, just because a dog or cat (or any other pet) is considered a piece of property doesn't mean that the splitting spouses are barred from reaching an out-of-court agreement over pet custody. These agreements can be as nuanced or simple as the splitting spouses would like. A schedule could be created to allow each person to see the pet and spend time with it on a frequent basis. Pet support payments are a possibility too; maybe to offset a scheduling imbalance, or to help pay for supplies.

This may sound like a bit too much to non-pet-owning couples -- or even to some pet-owning couples. But it is important to remember that these types of cases are popping up more and more. To some couples, their pet is more than just "a pet." Their cat or dog is an integral part of their family. If you are having a contentious pet custody dispute with your soon-to-be-ex, you should consult an experienced family law attorney.

Source: Huffington Post, "Who Gets the Family Dog After Divorce?," Nancy Kay, Nov. 10, 2013

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