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Marital assets: Who gets Rover?

When an Ohio couple files for divorce, they begin a process that will lead to the division of their martial assets and property. This negotiation over dividing marital assets in a divorce can be emotional, as the couple works to come to agreement about who will get to keep property like the family home, the car and even sentimental items like art work or vacation souvenirs. Increasingly, couples involved in a divorce must also come to an agreement as to who gets to have custody of the family pet.

Authorities note that all states, including Ohio, consider a pet personal property. Like the furniture, dishes and other marital assets, they are to be awarded to one of the divorcing spouses. But recently, according to the president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML), judges in divorce cases have been asked to consider these pet custody questions more akin to child custody than property division.

In the past, matrimonial litigants have been hesitant to fight for the custody of the family pet, reports state. But as pets become more popular, the law has begun to see them as more than just property. Pet custody agreements can include visitation, holiday schedules and vacation plans, and even end-of-life arrangements. These sometimes complicated issues are most often negotiated as a part of the divorce settlement.

If a couple cannot agree on the custody of the family pet, they can ask a court to decide. Judges will typically review the living situation of the pet, considering issues such as which spouse is the primary caregiver of the animal. Additionally, courts appear to be more likely to award custody of the family pet to the primary home of any children involved in the divorce matter. But in homes without minor children, pet custody cases shows trends of becoming increasingly like the equivalent of a child custody dispute rather than the disposition of marital assets.

Source: The Washington Times, "Custody of the animal a common divorce spat," Sue Manning, March 5, 2012

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