Who gets to keep the family dog during a divorce?

In the case of a contentious divorce – where the spouses can't agree on anything – it may be particularly difficult for one spouse to give up the family dog in the name of diplomacy. In these situations, family court judges will face the next-to-impossible task of rendering a fair ruling on the issue: Who gets to keep the family pet in a divorce?

Part of the problem with this question involves the fact that dogs and other pets are not treated like children in a divorce. If the disagreement involved a child, the judge may offer a 50-50 custody split so the child spends half the time with one spouse and half the time with the other spouse. Although pet custody decisions like this may be possible in some states, in the state of Arizona, pets are still considered property and/or assets and they will be divided accordingly. This means that if you get to keep the dog, perhaps your soon-to-be ex will get to keep the much-loved oil painting that use to hang over your fireplace.

Unfortunately, trading a tangible asset like a painting for "man's best friend" is never going to make the person who gets the painting very happy. For this reason, spouses should try their best to reach a solution about the dog together. Many spouses, for example, set up a sharing plan – kind of like a parenting plan – in which they divide their time with the dog.

If you need to find a positive solution to your dog-sharing dilemma, get creative with your spouse and try to be as diplomatic and conciliatory as possible. It's common in these scenarios for one spouse to feel passionately that the dog is his or hers only. However, this spouse needs to put him or herself in the other spouse's shoes and remember that perhaps you both have an undying love for this animal.

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