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Division of assets and pets: Shared custody

Usually when people get divorced their main concerns are child custody, parental rights, visitation, alimony and property division, but sometimes a central part of a family is the family pet. The issue of who gets the family dog or cat can easily be overlooked when so many other important concerns are being addressed. If a family cannot agree on where the family pet goes, a court may help with the decision.

Since the divorce rate in the United States hovers around 50 percent for first time marriages, courts are normally busy enough with crucial aspects of divorce. According to one divorce attorney from Santa Monica courts have full dockets and usually do not want to deal with pets, but if a family really cannot settle the issue on their own, courts will try to deal fairly with the problem by creating shared custody for the pet.

According to the divorce attorney, a judge may create a shared custody agreement and will try to keep multiple pets together in the same household. In determining the shared custody agreement, a judge may ask each spouse how often they will allow the other spouse to visit the family pet once the divorce is concluded. The attorney says a judge may decide in favor of the spouse who is more generous with their time.

For one divorced couple who had a dog and a cat together and moved to different states, the process of sharing pet custody had an unexpected result. The couple divorced and decided to move to different states. Since they shared a dog and a cat they reached an agreement on their own to share custody and meet halfway every two weeks. After going through the process of meeting for three months, the former couple discovered not only how much they missed their pets but how much they missed each other and decided to remarry.

Source: Daily Sound, "For pet's sake: 'Til divorce do us part," Karen Lee Stevens, 3/16/11

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