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Pet Custody in Complex Divorces

 Posted on July 09, 2014 in Complex Divorce

complex custody, family pet, high asset divorce, Leander divorce attorney, pet custody, Round Rock complex divorce attorney, child custody disputesStatistics show that half of all marriages end in divorce. And according to the Humane Society, 62 percent of households in this country have pets. For many divorcing couples, those pets become part of complex divorce settlement negotiations, and can often turn as contentions as child custody disputes.

A survey conducted by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) revealed an increase of over 20 percent in the number of pet custody cases handled by family law attorneys. Many courts are now allowing pet custody cases, while others consider the pet to be an asset included in the matrimonial estate.

In the survey, almost 90 percent of pet custody cases centered around dogs, while the family cat was the issue in 5 percent of the cases.

Unfortunately the issue is not always about both spouses' attachment to the pet. Often, especially in high asset divorces, a spouse who could care less about the pet will use it as leverage against the spouse who is attached to the pet and threaten to go for custody of the pet unless concessions on significant financial assets are made.

Although many pet owners consider the animal a member of the family, the court will still view the pet as personal property. But if you have an aggressive attorney representing you, the judge could take the following into consideration when deciding who gets custody of the pet:

  • Which spouse takes care of the pet? Who feeds it, walks it, and takes it to the veterinarian when it gets sick? If you are the primary person doing these things, it is important to have evidence backing that up. Statements from neighbors that you are the spouse who walks the pet, a statement from the veterinarian's office, as well as pet supply receipts, will all booster your claim;
  • If there are children, and they are close to the pet, where the children will be living is also a main consideration; and
  • The court may also consider which spouse's lifestyle is more conducive to owning the pet.

In a statement regarding the survey, the president of AAML, Maria Cognetti, said, "While pet custody cases are not an everyday occurrence, far too many spouses attempt to initiate these disputes as a negotiating strategy, often believing that they can use the animal as a kind of bargaining chip.  This tactic is usually not effective and can come back to ‘bite' the antagonist throughout the divorce process. When it comes to a pet, it is often obvious which of the spouses has the strongest emotional bond."

If you are considering a divorce where there will be complex custody or high asset issues, it is critical to contact an aggressive Round Rock complex divorce attorney to begin planning and strategizing to ensure you receive all that you are entitled to in your divorce settlement.

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