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Utah doesn't recognize pets as family in a divorce

After taking care of a pet, playing with it and loving it, Utah residents treat them like family. If a couple decides to divorce, the fate of the family pet is uncertain. Under current law, the courts consider pets to be property, just as they would a couch or desk.

Most people these days take offense to that characterization. Even if a couple has trouble getting along in the midst of such a challenging time, they might want to put aside their differences long enough to figure out how to deal with their pet. If they leave the animal's fate to the court, one party would more than likely be awarded it without consideration for the relationship the other party developed.

Most people do not even consider the fate of a pet in their prenuptial agreements, so the issue only comes up when they start talking about divorce. Fortunately, couples have the freedom to negotiate their own settlement agreements without the intervention of the court. This allows them to make whatever arrangements they want to when it comes to their property, custody of their children and even custody of their pets.

If a couple is unable to come to an agreement, the court will award the animal to one or the other party. Each side could be given the opportunity to present evidence as to why he or she should receive the pet prior to the court making its decision. That is, unless a Utah couple who chooses not to use the traditional adversarial method of divorce works with their lawyers to resolve all of their issues, including how to divide time with the family pet.

Source:, "Who gets the dog in the divorce?", Matt Lindner, April 1, 2017

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