Law Offices of Barry I. Finkel, P.A.
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The law sees pets as property, not family members

You think of your dog as a member of your family. You raised him since he was a puppy. You have a very close bond. You know how important being part of the pack is to a dog.

When you and your spouse decide to get divorced, you both assume that you'll still get to see the dog, just like you would if you had a child together. Won't the court respect that emotional connection that you have?

Not necessarily. It is crucial that you understand that, to the court, pets are not family members. They are property. The same goes for your television, your silverware, your car and anything else you can think of. To the court, your dog gets the same consideration as a piece of artwork or your favorite chair.

This does not mean that you and your ex can't work out some sort of agreement, and you can even get it in writing. Perhaps you will keep the dog at your house, but your ex can come get him every weekend.

However, if you do not agree on what you should do with the dog -- maybe you both want to keep it and you do not want to share -- do not expect the court to use some sort of child custody arrangement. They may simply lump the dog in with your other property during the division process. This means you'll get a fair distribution of assets from a monetary perspective, but you may not be happy with the outcome if you lose your pet.

When you go to court, especially in a contentious divorce, make sure you understand all of your legal options.

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