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Who gets the pet in a divorce?

Many people in Georgia have a strong bond with their pets. When going through a divorce, many couples feel just as strongly about who will have custody of their pets as they do about their children. However, the custody, or ownership, of a pet is treated differently than that of a child.

Most importantly, unlike children, pets are considered property, and, as such, courts will not create a pet parenting plan. However, the former couple can. If they can come to an agreement, the former couple can create a visitation plan that will include information about visitation, veterinary bills and other issues. Additionally, an attorney can include this decision into the final divorce agreement. In a situation where custody is shared, it may be helpful to speak with a veterinarian to make sure both pet owners understand how to best transition the animal to maintain consistency.

Unfortunately, many couples are not able to come to an agreement, and a court may be required to step in. The court will determine who will be the owner of a pet since it is considered property. Unlike other property, there are some things a judge may take into consideration, including which person has the strongest bond with the animal, who provides the care and the animal's relationship with any children of the relationship. A judge can also consider who actually purchased the animal and financially supported it to determine ownership.

Individual states handle animals in divorce differently. As a result, it may be necessary to consult with an attorney in Georgia who has experience with such laws. This person should be willing to advocate for your wishes regarding your pet and, hopefully, come to an acceptable arrangement.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Divorce Confidential: The Fight for Your Pet in Divorce", Caroline Choi, Sept. 24, 2014

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