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Sorting out the legal issues around pet ownership at divorce

Dallas couples may be interested in an article discussing how pets are dealt with in a divorce. Because of the way that pets are seen under the law, they will be treated in a particular way.

For divorcing couples that have a pet, there are a few legal options for determining who gets custody. If the pet was owned by one of the spouses prior to the marriage, then it would stay with that spouse after the marriage ends. This is because a pet is legally a piece of property, regardless of how its owners may feel that it is part of the family. Being a piece of property, it can be classified as either pre-marital or marital property. Generally, all property obtained during the marriage is subject to division. When a pet is considered pre-marital property, however, it stays with whoever owned it before the marriage.

Additionally, pets can be governed by either prenuptial or post-nuptial agreements. This means that a couple can have a contract that governs the ownership of the pet should the marriage break up. If none of these apply, however, one spouse may use the other's love of the pet as leverage in any settlement negotiations. They may use pet custody as a way to get the other spouse to concede on alimony or child support issues.

An attorney may be able to help in these negotiations about divorce matters. The attorney may be able to assess the couple's situation, whether related to a pet or any other divorce legal issues, and recommend a negotiation strategy to get a fair result. The attorney may also be able to represent the spouse in front of a judge should negotiations between the couple fail to produce the desired outcome.

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

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Bruce Turner

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