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Phoenix AZ Family Law Blog

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Custody Battles Over the Family Pet are Becoming Commonplace

It is no secret that couples are divorcing.  It seems like every time you turn on the TV you hear news of another celebrity couple splitting up.  As divorces have gotten more public we have become desensitized to ugly custody battles.  But, a new kind of custody battle is taking shape; those over the family pet.

As people are marrying later and waiting until an older age to have children than ever before, pets have become like children to many.  Unfortunately, most courts don’t view them this way.  Most courts consider pets to be property and treat them as such.  Some judges that are more understanding about the relationship between human and pet might attempt to get to the bottom of the matter.  Unfortunately, most courts follow the philosophy that whoever wants the pet the most has to pay for it.  In other words, the courts participate in a game of “how much is it worth to you” when it comes to deciding custody battles over pets.  The party who wins the bid has to compensate the other side for the privilege.

Part of the problem in this area is that there is no law specific to the subject.  The lack of law creates an area governed by court discretion which can be inconsistent and unpredictable.  While we aren’t closer to seeing concrete law on the subject, some courts might be evolving on the issue.  Some courts will consider evidence to determine who should get custody.  Some courts have even granted visitation to the non-custodial party.  Also, the parties often initially neglect to consider the huge expense and time commitment involved in litigation.  In some instances, couples battle for years over a pet and end up spending tens of thousands of dollars.  

Experts say that the best way to ensure that you will get custody of your pet in the event of a split is to execute a pre-nuptial or post-nuptial agreement.  These agreements are especially important when the couple purchases the pet together.  It is usually easier to determine who should receive custody when one party brought the pet into the marriage.  

If you need advice on any family law issues, including divorce and custody matters, call the Phoenix attorneys at Cohen Family Law at (602)714-8898.


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