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Dealing with pets in a divorce

Many Texas pet owners would be devastated if they were to be separated from their companion animals, and some divorcing spouses use this kind of emotional attachment as leverage during negotiations over property division. Disputes over dogs, cats or other pets are becoming more common in divorce cases, and many family law attorneys are now incorporating clauses about pet visitation and custody in prenuptial agreements.

The law has traditionally treated pets no differently than any other piece of marital property, and to award joint custody of a dog or cat would be akin to ordering a divorced couple to share a car or apartment. However, a 2013 case in New York indicates that the law may be evolving in regard to disputes over property division that involve pets.

The judge in the New York divorce case elected to forgo the traditional standards of property division and instead made a decision based upon what would be in the best interests of the pet. This standard is used during child custody cases, and it was applied to pets in another New York case. In Raymond v. Lachmann, a roommate's visitation rights were revoked because they were not considered to be in the best interests of an aged cat.

An experienced family law attorney will likely understand the sentimental bonds that can develop between pet owners and their companion animals, and they may suggest that a prenuptial agreement be drafted that specifies how a pet will be cared for in the event of a divorce. An attorney could also help divorcing spouses to reach an amicable agreement regarding their pets in order to avoid a contentious and emotionally draining dispute. However, an attorney may also advocate vigorously on behalf of their clients if such an agreement cannot be reached.

Source: Findlaw, "Raymond v. Lachmann"

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