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Pet custody and divorce

Many Phoenix, Arizona residents see their pets as family members. They hang pictures of their pets on the walls, share their bed with them, spend hundreds on their grooming and care. But when it comes to divorce law pets are no different than any other piece of personal property and must be accordingly divided. For many couples seeking a divorce the decision on what to do with a pet can become as contentious as child custody.

There are 44 million dogs in American homes and more than 30 million other pets. Americans love their pets and spend more than $40 billion a year on their care. When people add that to the fact that Americans are having children later in life and fewer children at that, it is understandable that divorcing couples spend their time fighting over the pets. According to a poll by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, a quarter of all polled said they have noticed an increase in pet custody issues.

Divorce courts have taken different views on the issue. Some have decided pet custody similar to child custody where one party gets the dog or pet and the other party has the right to see the dog. In such instances, the court may weigh who spent more time with the dog and what is the best interest of the dog. Other courts view pets simply as property and treat them as any other item of personal property in property division. If the dog was a pre-marital asset then it stays with the party who brought it to the marriage. If the dog was marital property it may be divided where one party gets the dog and the other gets the car.

Needless to say, legal battles involving pets can take an emotional investment on the couple and the pet. Couples could end up spending thousands of dollars fighting about the issue if they do not step back and consider the emotional toll.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Who gets the pets in a divorce? What you need to consider when fighting over Fido," Maria Moya, Jan. 19, 2014

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