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The various ways of dealing with pets after divorce

When you and your spouse married, you knew you wanted to be parents. After a few years, you brought home a new addition. You cared for him or her, you spent a considerable amount of money on him or her and you loved him or her, so now that you and your spouse are divorcing, what are you to do? If this was a question about children, there is a highly established set of laws and procedures in Georgia to decide child custody. If, however, we are talking about a pet, it may be much trickier to figure out.

Let's say, for example, we are dealing with the situation above. The pet would be considered marital property under Georgia law and, like any other piece of marital property, it will be divided equitably. This means that one spouse will get Fluffy or Fido, while the other gets something of approximately the same value.

Treating a pet like property, however, is difficult for many people in Georgia to do and, thus, many people work with their divorce attorneys to craft pet custody agreements. A pet custody agreement does not have the same weight as a child custody agreement, as it is a simple contract, but, if it is properly constructed, it will likely hold up in court.

Much like a child custody agreement, pet parents may come up with complex agreements about how to share custody of the pets, who is responsible for what costs, and what to do during vacations and time off. Many family law attorneys who are coming up with these kinds of agreements will remind the former spouses that it is still important to remember the best interests of the pets, too.

Source: East Bay Express, "How to Navigate Pet Custody Battles," Elly Schmidt-Hopper, June 5, 2013

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William C. Gentry, Attorney at Law

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