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Is your dog like a chair?

40823066_S.jpgIn the eyes of most family law courts, it is. While Missouri courts have elaborate statutory rules and much case law precedent to guide their determinations in questions involving child custody, your family pet, no matter how cute, cuddly and beloved by the family, has a much lower status.

Your dog is property. Personal property. Much like your furniture, clothes, vehicles, jewelry, guns and other collectables. Many judges will not even consider hearing arguments on the topic, and most are unlikely to issue anything thing remotely like a custody order.

For millions of Americans and thousands of families who go through the divorce process in a Missouri family court, a dog, cat or other pet is far more than a "piece of personal property." If your family has such a beloved pet, this means you will likely need to come up with a custody agreement of your own to deal with your pet.

Like any agreement during a divorce, you need to thoroughly examine all of the potential aspects of such an agreement. If your spouse has been primarily responsible for the care, you may want to think twice before taking on a shared responsibility.

If you work long hours or travel for your job, who will let the dog out and make sure that it is fed and watered? Will it have sufficient exercise and is its temperament such that it can remain home for many hours unattended? Will it destroy your home in your absence due to boredom?

You also have to consider the need for additional contact with your former spouse. If such meetings to exchange the pet are likely to present a potential for conflict, you may need to take that into account.

Source: Bloomberg.com, "In a Divorce, Who Gets to Keep the Family Dog?" Ben Steverman, April 29, 2016

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