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Pet custody cases on the rise
by Colin Smith/KTAR (March 5th, 2012 @ 5:00am)
They still fight like cats and dogs in divorce court, but more and more they are fighting about cats and dogs.
Custody cases involving pets are on the rise across the country.
“As pets become more popular it’s becoming more of an issue,” said family law attorney Craig Simon. “I see pet custody issues come up in about one in every three divorce cases.”
Pets are generally considered personal property but to settle a dispute, courts will often try to identify the animal’s primary caregiver.
“Judges will look at who walked the dog, took the cat to the vet, who had the primary attachment to that pet,” Simon said.
If there is a child involved in a divorce, many judges will keep the pet with the child.
Fighting over a pet can be emotional and expensive. Simon has heard of cases where spouses have run up more than $50,000 in legal fees arguing over who kept two cats.
In a 2006 survey by the 1,600-member American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, a quarter of respondents said pet custody cases had increased noticeably since 2001. The academy is due for another survey, but there is no doubt such cases have grown steadily since then, said Ken Altshuler of Portland, Maine, AAML president.
In some cases, Simon recommends pets be included in prenuptial agreements to define them as one spouse’s sole and separate property.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.