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Pets and divorce: Who gets the dog and cat?

Do you have a pet? If you own a dog or cat, then you're one of 178 million people in the U.S. who does according to The Human Society of the United States. Many of the pet owners consider these animals a true member of their families. Unfortunately, divorce courts don't yet consider pets in the same way.

Pets are viewed as property during a divorce. If you want to be awarded Fido and Fluffy, you will need to tell your attorney that you are ready to fight for them. Here are some factors the court may consider before deciding who gets the pets:

-- Did you bring the pet into the marriage? If so, then you likely have established a bond with the pet before you said, "I do." The court would be more likely to award a pet to the spouse who brought it into the marriage.

-- Is the pet a favorite of the children? If you have children who simply adore their pets, then the court will usually want to keep the pets and the children together.

-- What do you want to lose for the pet? If you're fighting for your pet, then you need to know that you may have to give up something else in order for the court to view the property division as fair.

-- Who provides for and cares for the pet? It can be expensive to care for a pet, especially if you are trying to budget expenses with only one income. If you are the one who takes the pet to the veterinarian, buys its food and generally oversees its care, it can be beneficial to you in a court battle over the pet.

These are just a few of the things to consider when it comes to divorce and "custody" of your pet. It's best to work out a visitation plan for your pet with your spouse instead of having the court rule on it. An attorney can provide additional information on pets and divorce.

Source: Huffington Post, "Who Gets the Pets?," James J. Sexton, July 16, 2015

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