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Salt Lake City – Ogden – Lehi
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Salt Lake City – Ogden – Lehi

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Experienced Divorce and Family Law Attorneys Serving All of Utah

Can I keep the dog or cat after our divorce?

When married couples with treasured pets make the choice to get divorced, they should understand how the courts may assess the custody of their furry family member and learn about their options to keep a pet in their lives.

Divorcing couples in Utah often face what feels like an unending list of things to worry about when they are trying to figure out how to separate their tightly commingled lives. Family heirlooms, retirement accounts and other financial investments, marital homes, credit card debts and more may all need to be split between the spouses. Figuring out who will obtain what is essentially custody of a dog or cat can be heart wrenching.

The changing importance of pets in people’s lives
The role that a pet plays in the life of a person or a family has evolved quite a bit over the last several decades. The shift from a dog living outside and sleeping in a doghouse to spending most of its time in the house and maybe even sleeping in the bed with its owner is just one indicator of this change.
Given the deep emotional attachment people may develop with their pets, it may not be all that surprising that the number of divorces in which the custody of a family pet becomes a significant issue has increased. The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers conducted a survey which found this to be a growing scenario in many marital splits.

Some states passing pet custody legislation
In response to the rise in pet custody disputes in divorces, some states have actually passed laws providing guidance on how a judge may make the decision about which spouse should keep the family pet. Criteria that judges may take into consideration include the amount of time each spouse spends with the pet and who has the primary responsibility for care tasks like feeding, walking, litter box maintenance, vet care and more.

Some shelters promote custody agreements upon adoption
Yahoo Finance notes that some pet adoption agencies request potential owners to indicate who will keep the pet should the couple split up as part of their pet adoption process. This has led some to even consider forms of prenuptial agreements that formalize these terms.

Legal guidance during a divorce is important
From pets to homes to children and more, Kristopher K. Greenwood & Associates provides the experience and legal knowledge needed to help divorcing spouses in Utah navigate the many facets of a marital dissolution. Contact us today to see how we may help you during this time.