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Pet custody disputes on the rise in dissolutions

Washington state pet owners who are considering dissolution of marriage will be interested to know that they are not alone in wanting to consider the best interests of their animal companions.

Battles over pet custody are increasingly common when couples in domestic partnerships and marriages split, according to recent news reports. Washington state law dictates that pets are property. As such, judges often divide ownership or custody of pets in the same way that they split furniture in seeking equitable distribution.

However, many people see their pets as family members, or even as their children, and not simply as their property. Oftentimes, an ex-spouse wants visitation with a pet even if the pet is going to live with the other party.

While it is common for judges to consider pets as important companions when it comes to child custody arrangements, the judges do not have a legal framework for which to formally designate a pet custody arrangement.

Oftentimes, people choose to work with their attorneys to come up with a pet custody agreement. When deciding on shared custody of a pet, people consider many factors similar to those in a child custody plan. Decisions regarding medical care, holiday schedules, food and other miscellaneous expenditures must be decided.

Several states have discussed legislation that would solidify pet custody issues under family law, but for now, pets are treated as property in every state. Sensitive negotiations regarding pets in dissolutions can be easier with the help of an experienced family law attorney.

Source: Recordnet.com, "Divorce lawyers: Pet custody cases increasing," Feb. 28, 2012

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