In animal-loving U.S., unsurprising that pets often divorce focus

In Georgia and elsewhere, feelings of love and closeness often go out the door with the divorce process. That is hardly unnatural, given what divorce means and entails.

That is usually far from the case, though, where a pet is involved, with it being no overstatement to say that many Americans regard their cats, dogs and other beloved animals as almost akin to children. Letting go can be difficult, if not excruciating.

It might seem a bit ironic and tongue in cheek to elevate pet custody to the same level of importance as other key matters that emerge during the divorce process, but the reality of American life and love of pets — the U.S. Census estimates that about 70 percent of all households in the country have one or more pets — demands that the subject be acknowledged and considered with all due probity.

As a recent media article points out, divorcing parties across the country are routinely stunned to see their pet judicially regarded as mere property and the determination of where Fido or Tabby goes being considered from a property division standpoint.

One family law practitioner who handles a high volume of pet custody cases says that, although most divorcing spouses tend to view animal outcomes as something similar to how child custody should play out (with an equitable sharing arrangement at the fore), that notion “does not seem to fly well with judges.”

Where judges are making the call, “They see it as property,” she notes. “It’s like a couch.”

And where property is concerned, legal issues center on whether an asset is separate or marital property. In the case of an animal, proof of purchase (when, by whom), vet bills, care-related receipts and other evidence pointing toward who should get the pet might need to be submitted.

Persons with questions regarding pets in the context of divorce should contact an experienced family law attorney for answers.

Source: East Bay Express, “How to navigate pet custody battles,” Elly Schmidt-Hopper, June 5, 2013

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