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Who will have pet custody after a divorce?

For many parents in St. Charles who are going through a divorce, child custody and visitation rights are likely at the top of the list of concerns. But children are not the only members of the family whom parents have to consider when dividing responsibilities. Beloved family pets are also part of the equation, and sometimes determining who will care for a family pet requires some very emotional decision-making.

Under Missouri law, pets are treated as property in divorce proceedings, but that doesn't diminish the attachment a family can feel toward a pet. In fact, a 2006 survey of divorce lawyers points to a national increase in custody cases involving pets.

Judges will usually give custody of a pet to the parent who is given custody of the child. In some cases, however, there may be a good reason to give the custody of a pet to a non-custodial parent.

For some people, decisions regarding pet ownership are as difficult to make as those regarding a mortgage or debt division. And more often these days, divorcing pet owners don't have children, and the pets take on a special stature in the lives of the divorcing couple. In these cases, pet owners may even work out a shared custody plan or rules for pet visitation.

In every state, pets are legally regarded as property, but that doesn't mean a pet isn't part of the family. If the current trends continue, modern divorce settlements will likely involve more decisions about the care of beloved animals, and Missouri residents will want to know exactly what their rights are under current family law.

Source: Mercury News, "Divorce lawyers: Pet custody cases increasing," Sue Manning, March 4, 2012

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