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Keeping the family pet after a divorce

New Mexico couples planning to divorce often are concerned about who will keep the family pets. Most states consider pets as personal property, and, depending upon the state in which people reside at the time they divorce, they may be considered either community property or separate property to be awarded to one partner. However, many people who divorce often make a specific request to keep the family pet.

The past several years have revealed a growing trend of pet owners filing for custody of their beloved companions. Many couples consider their pets to be just like their children and are unable to come to mutual decisions regarding which partner should keep them after they divorce. Judges have begun to realize how important pets are to their owners and often consider several factors when determining who will keep them following a divorce.

Many courts make their pet custody decisions based upon evidence and testimony presented by the pet's owners as well as expert witnesses in order to determine what would be in the pet's best interest. Judges will also often consider pet custody matters using similar criteria to those used in child custody, such as financial means and availability of time.

A decision on who will keep the family pet in the event of a divorce can be a difficult one. Some people may choose to negotiate a pet custody agreement through a divorce mediation process in order to avoid having to rely on a court to decide. Couples may even choose to agree upon shared custody or visitation and may decide upon a support payment arrangement to help ensure the well-being of their pets.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Who Gets the Family Dog After Divorce?", Nancy Kay, November 10, 2013

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