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Divorce often means deciding who gets the family pet

Divorce means so much more than living separately and dividing assets and debt. It more often than not involves child custody and today, it can mean pet custody as well. In the past few years, couples are seeing their pets as "people" too.

It really matters very little whose name is on the dog owner's certificate, if you even have one. Pets are not considered as property anymore in some courts, and as such, are not subject to the rules and laws of property distribution. Fundamentally, the same was that you gain custody or visitation rights for your children will be the way you gain access to your family's pet.

The court has the right to award the pet, visitation -- whether shared or not -- and even alimony payments to the persons involved in the divorce that is occurring.

Do you offer the most support on a daily basis? Things such as feeding, walking or giving affection to the pet will go a long way in front of the judge to get you full custody.

Pets are expensive and this is another way that you can prove you will be the best person to keep the pet: if you can provide documentation that you paid for veterinary bills, special medicines and for boarding your pet when you were on vacation.

Who spent the most time with the pet? If it was you, you may need to have witnesses who can verify this in the hearing to decide who your pet goes to. Of course, if you didn't spend time with your pet because you were busy working, this will come into the picture as well.

If you brought the pet into the marriage, you may be able to keep this pet as your own. You have a primary bond with this animal that your partner may not have.

Handling this type of situation is one that may need a professional's help. Also, becoming familiar with California's laws regarding this issue will help you and your legal representative see that you get what is rightfully yours.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Who Gets the Pets?," James J. Sexton, July 15, 2015

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