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Pets, not child custody, sending some couples to court

In most households in New York, the family dog or cat is just as much a part of the family as anyone else. Unfortunately, the law has yet to catch up with modern Americans view on Fido, and handling the issue of pet custody in a divorce can be a tricky matter. Unlike child custody agreements, working out who gets to keep a beloved pet is usually done during property division.

According to data from 2008, over half of households in America have at least one pet. Additionally, most people are spending more money than ever on animals while simultaneously having less children. While these could be contributing factors to the rise in status for household pets, it can also seriously complicate the divorce process. After all, how do you split custody of a pet when the law says that it is simply property? 

One suggestion involves following the terms of a child custody agreement. In short, wherever the kids go, so does the dog. For some this may make sense, as child custody is established in the children's best interests, it may also be a suitable arrangement for the family pet. Outside of this and working out a pet custody agreement between both parties, there still are not that many viable options in New York for figuring out who the pet will go with.

Taking a battle over a pet's custody to court typically ends with only one party being awarded ownership of the animal, which may not be what either person originally had in mind. Alternative approaches to dispute resolution -- such as mediation -- can be especially useful for working out issues like child custody, property division and who gets to keep the pet without having to proceed all the way to the court level. Not only will a third party mediator be present to help guide the discussion and negotiations, but each party can still retain input from his or her counsel throughout the process.

Source: theoaklandpress.com, "Family law courts don't decide custody for our furry friends", Alisa Peskin-Shepherd, March 25, 2015

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