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Pets and divorce battles

Custody battles over children have long been an important, and sometimes unpleasant, feature of divorce cases in Colorado and around the country. Other couples may another very emotional dispute to settle if they own pets. A recent high-profile divorce dispute between two Hollywood stars, for example, came down to the sentimental value of three prized dogs. Divorce judges and attorneys are seeing many such cases arise.

Kidnapping, threats and restraining orders all have come up in pet-custody disputes. A spouse who has formed an emotional bond with a pet, and has spent more time and attention on its care and feeding, may claim custody on the same basis as she would fight for the custody of a young son or daughter. In most cases, however, pets are treated as personal property akin to furniture or other household goods and are subject to equitable distribution in Colorado.

Some judges, however, may allow the spouses to present their own testimony, witnesses and evidence supporting their claims. In this way, pets can complicate and lengthen the divorce process, extend the attorney hours, and make the entire divorce more difficult and expensive.

To avoid this scenario, attorneys routinely advise couples to work out possession of their four-legged friends in a pre- or post-nuptial agreement. Although pets often bond with only a single person, a written agreement will simplify matters if a couple buys the pet together, and both contribute to the care of the pet. A divorce attorney can help a pet-owning client in negotiating and preparing such an agreement that contains appropriate language.

Source: The Daily Beast, "Divorce Is Going to the Dogs, Literally", Keli Goff, June 20, 2014

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