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Dealing with pet ownership as part of divorce proceedings

To many Americans, a family pet is considered a valued member of the family unit as a whole. Connecticut residents facing a divorce may be inclined to ask what becomes of a family pet in a legal sense, since child custody does not extend to four-legged friends. In general, the law views pets as an extension of personal property.

Depending on where the couple is located, a pet -- considered just as much a piece of property as furniture or an automobile -- falls under the same rules that dictate division of inanimate assets. A pet might be considered community property or, if the pet was purchased prior to the marriage, may fall under the category of individual assets and therefore be awarded to the original owner. However, as time goes on, more and more so-called "pet custody" cases are being brought before the courts.

As a result, some court justices are changing the way they deal with such cases in the interest of adapting the law to changing expectations. Some judges determine pet custody in ways similar to child custody -- which spouse can provide the most time and attention, which spouse can provide best for the pet in question and so on. Still others have gone so far as to award joint custody of a pet with the same schedules and quid pro quos associated with child custody.

For some people, owning a pet goes far beyond thinking of the animal as personal property. Connecticut residents can attest to the strong bonds developed between an owner and his or her pet. In a divorce situation, it is recommended that both spouses determine what the local and state laws are as they pertain to pet custody and what their personal rights are in association with those laws.

Source: The Huffington Post, Who Gets the Family Dog After Divorce?, Nancy Kay, Nov. 10, 2013

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