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Determining pet ownership in divorce

Many Americans have pets, animals they often consider parts of their family. But when a Connecticut couple chooses to get a divorce, which of them is entitled to custody of the family dog, cat or parrot? This question depends heavily on the specifics of the divorce in question. 

According to the letter of the law, pets are not considered children, but property. This means many of the regular rules pertaining to asset division apply to them. For example, if the dog was originally the property of the wife prior to the marriage, ownership of the dog returns to the wife once the divorce is filed, just as any pre-marital property would revert to its original owner. 

However, in families where the animal was a joint purchase, complications arise. Typically, judges do not like to institute custody agreements for animals as they would for children because of the need for a separate custody hearing that would be required. Often, judges urge individuals to seek outside counsel such as divorce mediation for determining pet ownership prior to the divorce filing to keep the process moving quickly and efficiently. 

Connecticut residents are as attached to their pets as any American would be. This is why in a divorce situation it is so important to seek out support in dealing with the specifics of divorce law. If both individuals go into a divorce settlement understanding their rights and responsibilities, particularly as they pertain to asset and debt division, they will both be more prepared for the process itself. This can help to ensure that all assets, including pets, go where they belong. 

Source:, "In a Divorce, Who Gets to Keep the Family Dog?", Ben Steverman, April 29, 2016

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