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Deciding who gets the family pet in a divorce

Pets, just like children, need to be accommodated when Arizona couples who own them decide to separate. At one time, family dogs and cats were considered property and subject to the asset division process. However, many courts now view these faithful companions as members of the family. Their well-being needs to be considered just like the best interests of any children are considered in divorce actions.

Pet owners may find themselves involved in custody disputes of their beloved animals. Just like child custody battles sometimes end up being decided by a court, so could custody of the family pet. Many factors enter into the equation of determining what is in the best interests of the pet, be it a cat, dog, bird or exotic animal.

Key questions that need to be answered include which spouse provides the most care for the animal and which spouse is able to spend the most time with it. Other factors include which party has the financial means to care for the animal and which one brought the pet into the relationship. If children are involved, their relationship with the pet needs to be considered. Since children already are losing one parent on a full-time basis, having the pet stay with the custodial parent may help ease the trauma of the divorce.

Arizona pet owners should try to work out a custody arrangement for this important family member when they are facing the end of a marriage. If they can't, the court may have to decide who gets custody of the pet. Family law attorneys may be able to mediate a solution to pet custody issues, which may include visitation rights for the one who isn't given custody.

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