Stephen J. Buhler, Attorney at Law

Pet custody battles prove to be challenging for divorcing couples

Any property that was acquired during a marriage may be split between the couple during a divorce. Property division is a key part of the divorce process and can have an effect on your future as a single person.

Utah courts use equitable distribution to divide marital property during a divorce. Equitable distribution allows a judge to determine how to distribute the property fairly between the parties. In some cases, the property will be split evenly between the two parties, but in other cases one party may receive more than the other. This also means that if a couple comes to a property division agreement on their own as part of their divorce, the court will have to review the agreement to ensure that it is fair.

Some couples must also deal with custody issues, but not all custody battles involve human children. One of the most complicated issues is determining who gets custody of the pets. In the past, pets have been treated as property during the divorce process. However, some states are beginning to consider the best interests of the animals and are awarding custody and visitation rights to pet owners. Some states also allow people to create trusts specifically to provide care for their pets.

Pet custody will continue to be a highly talked about issue in divorce courts across the country. The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers found a 27 percent jump in pet-custody cases in a 2014 survey. Property division isn't always easy, but it can get especially complicated when emotions are involved. Many people treat their pets like part of the family, so parting with them can be incredibly painful.

Source: The New York Times, "When Couples Divorce, Who Gets to Keep the Dog? (Or Cat.)," Christopher Mele, March 23, 2017

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