When the fur starts flying: pets and divorce

With 62 percent of homes in the U.S. having a pet, it's no wonder that those furry creatures become a sticking point when it comes to divorce. Deciding to divorce is difficult, especially when you consider child custody, child support, alimony and property division. The latter, though, is where your pet comes in. You might believe that Fido or Frisky is a part of your family, but in the eyes of a California court, your pet is nothing more than property.

So, what can you do to ensure that your pet stays with you when you divorce? One method involves getting a prenuptial agreement. You can stipulate in this agreement that if a divorce occurs, the pet will stay with you. A post-nuptial agreement can also ensure the same thing. If the time has passed for either agreement, you'll need to plead your case to the judge or come to an agreement with your soon-to-be ex-spouse.

Your spouse could also choose to use your pet against you. He or she likely knows what your pets mean to you. It could be used as leverage to get something that he or she wants. If an agreement cannot be reached, then you may need to prove that you are the one who provides most of the care for the pet, such as feeding it, taking it for veterinary appointments and interacting with it.

Children can be very attached to pets, so it is often in the best interests of a child to have the pet live with them. However, for parents that will be moving, it's important to first consider pet policies for rentals and leases.

Pets are an important part of many families. Understanding how the law views pets in a divorce as well as possible options for keeping your pet is something to consider before a divorce petition is filed.

Source: Forbes, "How Are Pets Handled In Divorce?" Jeff Landers, Apr. 17, 2014

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