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Custody of pets is a growing concern in divorces

Perhaps the most difficult and emotionally taxing part of a divorce is determining child custody. Parents who are splitting up may not want to put the children in the middle of their separation, but children are affected nonetheless. With increasing frequency, it is not just the children who may be caught in the middle.

There has been a significant increase in pet custody cases across the country, including Louisiana. In many couples, a pet is not a possession, but a member of the family. Legally, however, pets are considered to be property in all states. The fact that more couples are coming up with custody arrangements for their pets, however, may encourage some states to pass laws to provide some guidelines for the process.

Reasons for the increase in pet custody arrangements include greater societal acceptance of pets as family members, increases in civil unions and domestic partnerships, and the fact that more people than ever have pets now.

Similar to child custody cases, attorneys and judges are helping couples determine custodial issues of pets. In most cases, visitation schedules and health care costs need to be addressed, as do all other expenditures. Some couples even draw up an agreement for how they will make end-of-life decisions for their beloved pet.

As mentioned, few guidelines exist for judges to make determinations on how to divide custody of a pet between the separating couple. In cases where there are, in fact, children involved, a judge will likely keep the pet with the child. Without children, however, the process of resolving custody of the pet can get complicated.

This is not to say it is impossible. Like many other issues that come up during a divorce or separation, emotions frequently run high. However, by seeking the help of an attorney or other professional, a couple can learn to work together and compromise so they can focus on what is best for their pet.

Source: Fox News, "Pet custody cases increasing, divorce lawyers say," Feb. 28, 2012

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