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Dog custody cases increasing in U.S.

The end of a marriage is a difficult time for a family when children are involved, and couples with pets are finding that deciding who gets custody of the family dog can be equally as hard. Increasing numbers of Colorado families are taking their battles over where their four-legged friends will live after the divorce into court to be settled along with other more traditional issues.

While both parties in the divorce may feel as though their dog or cat is a beloved family member, most courts have traditionally viewed animals as personal property to be divided in the same manner as household items. However, a noticeable rise in the number of divorce cases involving pet issues have caused some judges to reassess their thinking.

Many courts have now begun to consider pet custody in the midst of a divorce in much the same manner child custody is decided by making a determination as to what would be in the pet's long term best interests. Experts are often called upon to provide their opinions after observing the interaction of the animal with family members.

Making a mutual decision on who gets to keep the family pet, especially in a contentious divorce, can a difficult task but it is one that many divorce lawyers are recommending couples consider. By taking into account such matters as who has the best relationship with the animal, if children have an attachment to the animal, and which party will have the means to care for the pet, divorcing couples may be able to reach an agreement on this issue rather than leaving it in the hands of a judge.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Who Gets the Family Dog After Divorce?", Nancy Kay, November 10, 2013

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