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Who gets the pets following a divorce?

Many people in Missouri and across the country love their pets like their own children. As such, what happens to them following a divorce is an important consideration. In addition to who the pet lives with, who pays for the pet's bills is also an important question as the spending on pets has nearly doubled over the course of the last 10 years. Though courts have previously viewed animals as property, laws and attitudes are starting to shift.

In 1995, a judge in another state set the precedent regarding the treatment of animals during divorce. In a ruling, he claimed that pets are property, and, as such, judges do not have the authority to create a custody arrangement and visitation schedule. However, in the last two years, three states have enacted laws giving judges more leeway to consider the best interests of an animal.

When a custody and visitation plan is created for a pet as part of divorce proceedings, there are many factors that must be addressed beyond who has the pet. For example, most couples address who will be responsible for paying for routine and emergency medical care or who will provide care for the animal if the person with which the pet is scheduled to be is out of town? While pet owners are often as passionate about their pets as they are about their children, there are some options to help settle many of these questions without conflict.

Prior to the wedding, a couple can create a prenuptial agreement which can, among many other things, determine pet custody and bill division in the event of a divorce. Some people in Missouri also choose to go the mediation route, which is often a less continuous process that happens between the couple and a neutral third-party. For all of these options, an attorney with experience with family law can help pet owners ensure that the needs of their pets are met even when owners are no longer in a romantic relationship.

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