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New law: Judges to consider pet "custody" in divorce

Many Colorado residents are aware that there are no laws in place that require a family court judge to consider issues related to pet "custody" when a couple is divorcing. However, one state has recently undergone a change in that regard, and a new law will require judges to consider the wellbeing of each animal when making decisions concerning pet "custody" during a divorce. That change comes as a welcome relief to pet owners who are concerned about how their beloved pets would be treated in the event of a divorce.

Currently, many judges refrain from weighing in on the matter altogether, and there have been cases in which the parties are sent home to work the matter out on their own. Other judges approach the issue the same as they would any other property division matter. That can leave the decision on who will keep the pets based on which party purchased the animal or paid for the cost of veterinary care.

In the state with a new law pertaining to pet "custody," judges will consider which living arrangements would be best for each pet. The law even leaves room for a shared custody approach, where the pet would transition between the homes of both spouses. Provisions are also made for cases in which domestic violence is an issue.

While this change in family law will not directly affect Colorado residents, the change is suggestive of a shift in the way that family courts consider issues of pet ownership and divorce. It is possible that similar legislation will come about in other areas of the nation. That would come as a welcome relief to those who feel that their pets are part of their family.

Source: The Huffington Post, "In Alaska, Divorce Courts Must Now Consider Pet Wellbeing", Hilary Hanson, Jan. 26, 2017

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Brandon Ceglian's practice focus is family law, landlord-tenant law / real estate, civil litigation, criminal / DUI, and collections. View Attorney Profile

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