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Are pets assets or do judges award custody?

Pets are commonplace in households in the United States, and they definitely can fall into the middle of a dispute in a divorce. Many couples choose to forego having children, and pets may be treated so much like family that neither person wants to give them up. What happens when a pet is in the middle of its owners' contentious divorce?

Are pets legally assets, or are they treated like children with custody rights awarded?

The courts will tell you that pets are simply assets, but individuals don't view their pets in that way in most cases. Now more than ever before, pets are the center of custody disputes, and family members literally fight over who takes home the dog, cat or other pet. Traditionally, the courts would not do anything about this. Courts would not spend time creating a custody arrangement but would instead divide the marriage's assets equitably, pets included.

Are laws surrounding pet rights in divorce changing?

Today, more people want the courts to intervene and treat pets like children in a couple's custody. Some courts have gone as far as to award shared custody, visitation or even alimony payments to pet owners to support the care of the pets. In Alaska, judges can consider a pet's best interests and well-being when choosing who the pet goes to following the divorce.

Why not treat a pet like an asset? It's a living creature, and that makes a difference in the eyes of some judges, courts and owners. If you think your pet is more than just an asset of your marriage, you can fight for him or her. Your attorney can help you understand what to expect.

Source: The New York Times, "When Couples Divorce, Who Gets to Keep the Dog? (Or Cat.)," Christopher Mele, accessed May 01, 2017

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