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The problem with pets in a divorce

At different times in people's lives, they may develop a relationship with a furry friend that affects them deeply. Sometimes this happens in childhood, and other times later in life. Something about that bond with a dog, cat or other creature makes the hard times more bearable and the good times even better.

If you acquired your current pet during the years you were married, it may be difficult for you and your spouse to agree on where the animal will eventually end up after your divorce. You may be heartbroken that your divorce may cause your beloved friend confusion and anxiety.

Growing appreciation for pets as more than possessions

Very few states officially recognize pets as anything but personal property. This means that during the division of assets in a divorce, the judge may count the pet among the furniture and consider it merely for its monetary value. Nevertheless, individual judges have been known to hear arguments regarding pet custody, visitation schedules and even support payments similar to child support.

While the tide is turning toward a more humane way of handling pets during property division, you may still be facing a difficult battle to win custody of your pet. Lawmakers in some states are trying to convince their colleagues nationwide to consider enacting laws requiring judges to consider at least minimal standards when dealing with pets in a divorce, including:

  • What are the best interests of the animal?
  • Which spouse gave the pet the most time and attention?
  • Which spouse was most responsible for the health and well-being of the animal?
  • Which spouse will have a lifestyle most appropriate for the pet after the divorce?

You may find these guidelines comforting, especially if you feel your spouse may use your attachment to the pet as a means of causing you pain or seeking revenge.

Finding someone who understands your situation

Separating bank accounts, real estate and investments may be frustrating and contentious. After all, your future security may depend on the assets you obtain through property division. However, child custody aside, few things are more emotional than deciding who gets to keep the pet.

Kentucky law does not yet consider custodial arrangements for family animals, so you are right to feel concern about the fate of your beloved dog or cat. With the help of a skilled attorney, you may be able to negotiate with your spouse for possession of your pet or argue in court for your cause.

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