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Fighting over pet custody in a divorce

Couples in Dallas seeking to end their marriage often face disputes over child custody, property division and spousal support. Lately, however, a couple's love affair over the family pet has entered divorce cases.

According to the American Pet Products Association, 68 percent of households in this country own pets. Disputes about who will get the family pet after a divorce may be particularly expensive and contentious for childless couples who treat their pets as substitute children. States have recognized this and implemented new laws governing pet custody at the end of a marriage that go beyond the traditional treatment of pets as property.

Negotiations and planning can help resolve disputes regarding the family pet in a divorce. If the couple bought the pet as community property, they can negotiate a settlement addressing visitation, joint custody rights and expenses such as veterinary bills and day care.

Divorce mediation can also help couples reach an acceptable agreement and express their intent and feelings about the pet. As in other divorce legal issues, successful mediation can help lower rancor and costs and allow the parties to reach their own solutions instead of having to live with a judicial resolution.

Other methods address when a spouse brings their pet into the marriage. Prenuptial agreements can identify the spouse who is the pet's owner. A postnuptial agreement entered into during the course of the marriage can govern custody if the couple separates.

An attorney can help seek solutions for pet custody and other disputed matters. Legal representation may also help a spouse fight for their rights in court or in settlement negotiations.

Source: Moneyish, "You won't believe how people battle over their dogs in a divorce," Alisa Wolfson, Feb. 24, 2018

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