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Roanoke Family Law And Criminal Defense
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Couples may argue over pets when they end a marriage

When a couple in Roanoke decides to divorce, there are often many decisions that must be made, especially if there are children involved. However, some attorneys claim that they are seeing an increase in the number of couples who have difficulty deciding who will receive pets when they end a marriage. For many, pets are seen as a member of the family.

According to a recent survey conducted by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, lawyers are seeing an increase in the number of disputes over custody of pets. While dogs are the most disputed animals, cats, horses and others are also the topics of contention. Though some states are enacting legislation that would allow a judge to consider the well-being of an animal and order a joint custody arrangement, most states view pets as property subject to equitable property division.

While judges will not typically consider the best interests of a pet, there are some considerations that could sway who gets custody. If the pet was a gift from one spouse to the other, for example, the recipient could argue that the pet is separate property. Additionally, if one spouse owned the pet prior to the marriage and took primary care of the animal, he or she could have a persuasive argument. However, if the pet was purchased with marital funds, it would be difficult to argue that one spouse has a right to the animal over another.

Often those seeking divorce in Roanoke are unsure about many of the details regarding what will happen with their pets. However, they could ultimately agree on a shared custody plan which includes a visitation plan as well as how pet expenses will be divided among both parties when they end a marriage.  Some people may even decide to turn to a prenuptial agreement before they walk down the aisle that will address what will happen to a pet in the event the marriage comes to an end.

Source:, "Pets increasingly becoming divorce battleground", Susan Peck, March 27, 2018

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