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Pets: people or property in a divorce?

When people think about dividing up property in the event of a divorce, they often think of things like homes, bank accounts, credit card debt and their furniture. However, there are some things that need to be divided that you may not think of as a "thing."

For instance, in the eyes of the law, your pets are considered property. This can be enormously difficult to come to terms with, as many people would consider pets to more like members of the family.

Although pets are generally viewed as property, there are ways to work out a solution to division. In some cases, empathetic judges will take into consideration the relationship between each owner and the pet, the pet's needs and whether sharing the pet is a possibility in order to make an arrangement that more closely resembles a custody plan.

Pet owners can also work this out on their own outside of court. Some people offer to give up other assets in order to keep a pet; others can argue that the person who purchased the pet and covers the majority of pet-related expenses should be the one to keep it. It is also possible to work out a plan where both people get time with the animal.

It can be all but impossible to assign the monetary value of a pet. The same can be said for anything that has considerable emotional or sentimental value. These can be among the hardest "assets" to divide in a divorce because the price is subjective.

Because of this, negotiation can play a critical role in the division of assets. If you want to keep your pet, you may decide to give up money or another asset that may be important to your ex. If you agree that it is preferable for your pet to stay with your ex, he or she can be more willing to give up something that is of importance to you. If you cannot come to some agreement, the decision will be left up to the courts.

Discussing property division involving pets with your attorney can help you explore all the options available and take the steps necessary to protect the things -- and loved ones -- that are important to you.

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