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Taking the dog: How the court handles living assets

You know you want to get a divorce, and the process has already begun. Unfortunately, neither you nor your spouse want to give up your pets. You share two dogs and a cat, a bird and a few other small animals. You both take an interest in caring for them and don't want to give them up.

Your situation isn't uncommon, but an interesting problem is that the courts don't recognize animals as creatures requiring custody but, instead, as assets. Like any other kind of property, the animals can be divvied up upon divorce, but they aren't typically subject to custody arrangements or other similar solutions.

How can you resolve the custody of your pets during divorce?

The trouble with determining the custody of pets is that the courts simply don't put it into those terms. Like with other assets, the value of the pet is fairly easy to determine and then used in negotiations. Of course, the emotional value of a pet is immeasurable, so any valuation created for the sake of negotiation might not be the true value of a pet to you.

Splitting the home is often less contentious than deciding who gets the pets. According to an article from 2014, Americans spend around $41 billion on their pets every year. They're treated like family.

Since the courts won't see your pets as much other than assets, it's better if you and your spouse can work things out on your own. There are options such as mediation and arbitration that can help you determine which pets should go to which home or if all of them should stay with one person. If that isn't an acceptable solution for either of you, there is also the potential to share the custody of certain pets or to rehome them with someone who is a neutral party.

When the court looks at a pet custody case you can't resolve on your own, the only difference between a typical property division case is that the court will consider where the pet will be best cared for. After all, it is a living being.

Since that's the case, you should prepare information on why your home is the right home for your pets, should you choose to pursue custody of one or all of your pets from your marriage. This is something to do well before the trial, so you can prepare a solid statement on why your home is safest and why you're the better option to provide care.

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