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Dogs (and Other Pets) and Divorce

During any divorce, one of the client’s first questions is, “who gets what?” While dividing automobiles, properties, and other personal belongings are a relatively straightforward topic, the issue of pets and divorce is a detail that many couples overlook.

In the state of California, pets are considered personal property that has to be divided. A lot of pet owners cannot think of their pets as “only” property and often treat them like children. Some courts are starting to treat the family pet as another child. Here are a couple issues to think about when dealing with pets in the event of a divorce.

Check the Paperwork

The paperwork attached to the pet has a lot to determine who they ultimately end up with after the divorce. Regarding dogs, if they were registered with the American Kennel Club, double check the paperwork and who signed the forms. Also, make sure that your name is on any ownership documents. Other paperwork that needs to be reviewed are veterinary records, and microchip ID numbers. Having your name on these documents can go a long way in proving ownership.

Set Up a Parenting Plan

Many family courts in California will honor custody arrangements regarding animals. Try to arrange a schedule with your spouse where both parties can see the pet throughout the week. If there are kids and pets involved in the divorce, try to keep them on the same schedule. A pet can help children get through the stress of divorce and provide a type of stability during the process.

Work Out the Details

If a pet is going to be under a custody arrangement, make sure all parties understand who is going to be paying for the maintenance of a pet, like going to the veterinarian, grooming, etc. During these custody talks, it might be a good time to talk about end-of-life treatment scenarios regarding the pet.

Be Understanding

It is easier to be selfish with a pet than with a child. Some nights it might be easier not to drop off the pet at the agreed upon time. But remember, someone else loves the family pet just as much as you do and it is the right thing to let them spend quality time together and enjoy the love that only a pet can give.

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