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Who gets the dog when you divorce?

Divorce is a difficult and emotional process as you separate your lives and possessions. Typically, the more complex issues are child custody and property division, but an increasingly common and heated topic is ownership of the family pets. And in divorce, many people wonder - what will happen to the dog?

Families have long considered pets to be a part of the family, and in some cases pet owners think of the dog or cat to be their “other child”. Since the bond between people and pets is so strong, it is often a highly debated and very emotional point of contention between a couple in divorce.

Pets are assets in divorce

In most states, including Colorado, pets are treated like an asset in a divorce decision, similar to a car or furniture to be divided without special consideration. The pet could be ordered to one or the other spouse just like grandma’s dishes might be. There is no provision in the law for a judge to consider who might have given more care to the animal or where the pet might be better off. If this topic reaches a judge, it may not work out the way you’d like.

If possible, come to an agreement beforehand

If it is possible and if your relationship is amicable, it is in your best interest to work collaboratively with your soon-to-be-ex-spouse. Agreeing on pet ownership before you reach the court can save you time, money and heartache. Maybe one of you feels stronger about the dog and you are willing to give up something else in exchange for custody.

Or if you can work together, you could consider joint ownership as an option. If you decide on joint custody, work out and agree on the details like a shared schedule and division of the financial responsibilities ahead of time. An agreement like this can be a part of your divorce settlement.

Until laws in Colorado are put in place that consider the well-being of pets in divorce, your best bet is going to be working collaboratively to reach an agreement outside of the court process.

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