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How Does Custody of Pets Work in a Divorce?

When you come to see a family lawyer to deal with the breakdown of your marriage, the list of items often discussed includes access and custody of the children, child support, spousal support and equalization (i.e. property division). However, one thing that often gets overlooked by individuals going through a divorce is what happens to their family pets. To some, this might seem trivial, but to others, pets are considered to be faithful companions and an important part of the family.

So how are pets treated for the purposes of family law disputes? Technically speaking, a pet is considered to be property, just as your vehicle or home is considered property. The difficulty, however, is that while things like vehicles and jewellery can be easily valued monetarily and thus divided on that basis, a pet cannot be valued in that same way. You could allow your spouse to keep the new 2017 Mercedes-Benz and give you half of its value in cash. You could also divide the money in a joint bank account relatively easily. However, it is not possible to do the same with the family dog or cat.

The simplest and most common way to deal with pet ownership on the breakdown of a relationship is by way of separation agreement. However, it gets more complex when the parties cannot agree on who should keep the family pet. If this dispute is brought into the courtroom, the legal test will usually come down to who owns the pet on paper (i.e. who is the registered owner) and who cared for the pet during the relationship.

For more information on this and how to include your family pets in your separation agreement, contact a family law lawyer at Radley Family Law.

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