>    >  What Happens to the Dog When its Owners Divorce?

This article looks at the rise in pet custody disputes and how they are often handled in Louisiana.

For most people, a pet is more than just property, it is a member of the family. Because so many people have deep emotional ties to their furry friends, it is no surprise that, as Reuters reports, disputes over pet custody are on the rise throughout the United States. When a couple divorces, their pet is often subject to the same property division laws that affect their home, car, and other assets and debts. Fortunately, there are steps couples can take to ensure their pet is protected in the event of a divorce.

Pet Battles

Pet custody disputes have been rising rapidly in recent years. By one estimate pet custody disputes occur in about ten percent of all divorce cases. Furthermore, the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers recently surveyed its members and found that 27 percent of them reported that they had personally witnessed a rise in pet custody disputes in the past five years.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, dogs were at the center of disputes the majority of the time, accounting for 88 percent of all pet custody battles. Cats came in a distant second, appearing in five percent of cases.

Property Division

The main problem that comes up in regards to pets and divorce is the fact that while most owners consider their pets as family members, the law itself considers them to be a form of property. Strictly speaking, there is no part of the law that deals with pet custody and, unlike with child custody, the “best interests” of the pet carry no legal weight in court. If a dispute over pet custody does make it to court, then the judge is often obligated to consider ownership of the pet strictly in accordance with property division laws.

However, that doesn’t mean that pet owners are necessarily always at the mercy of the court when it comes to deciding who gets custody. As The Advocate points out, in Louisiana any pet that was owned by either spouse before the couple’s marriage date will stay with the original owner after the divorce. If the pet was acquired during the marriage, then it may be subject to the state’s community property laws. However, the majority of couples are able to decide for themselves who gets ultimate custody of the pet without having to bring their case before a judge. In some cases, addressing pet custody in a prenuptial agreement can also be a good way of dealing with potential problems before they arise.

Family Law

Pet custody is just one of the many issues that can come up during a divorce case and which can have a deep impact on a person’s life. While such issues are often deeply personal for the parties involved, it usually takes the advice of an experienced family law attorney to inform people going through a divorce how the law applies to their specific situation. Contacting a family law attorney today is often the key to ensuring that a person in the midst of a divorce will have the advice he or she needs to effectively deal with the complex legal issues raised during this difficult time.

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