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Family pets, divorce and property division

Property division during a divorce involves many concerns that may not be obvious. While many California residents may first think of the house or luxury car first and foremost, there are smaller assets to consider as well. Besides just the less obvious financial considerations -- retirement options, investments and the like -- there are also assets that may not hold monetary value, but are of great sentimental value to divorcees. Oftentimes, these assets need to be fought for just as vigorously as some of the larger assets.

One such asset is the household pet. Many California residents have likely developed a strong sentimental attachment to their cats or dogs. Divorce, unfortunately, often threatens to take these furry friends out of a person's life.

Seeing as around 50 percent of married couples end up getting divorced, and 62 percent of households in the country have no less than one pet, it becomes apparent that many California residents may encounter a pet custody dispute in their lifetimes. Sometimes, these property division cases can get heated. A soon-to-be ex-spouse may try to use the pet as a way of bargaining for a more favorable financial outcome. As such, some people may want to know more about what happens in a pet custody dispute and how to defend against a threatening soon-to-be ex-spouse.

First, it is often necessary to ignore a soon-to-be ex. It is possible, in some cases, to construct a well-thought-out and factually accurate statement with sufficient documentation. Armed with such a statement, divorcees can provide a judge with a well-reasoned argument for why they are better suited to retain ownership of a pet. Judges will consider a number of factors -- who first owned the pet, who served as the primary caregiver, etc. -- and by knowing what factors will weigh in on a judge's decision, it is sometimes possible to provide a convincing argument that will nullify a soon-to-be ex-spouse's threats.

Source: Forbes, "How Are Pets Handled In Divorce?," Jeff Landers, April 17, 2014

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John T. Chamberlin, Attorney at Law
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