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Attorneys Vic Hill and Brad MacDonald

Georgia property division: Who gets the family pet?

Many pet owners don’t consider their pet a piece of property. For many, their beloved pet is truly a member of the family. But in Georgia, when going through a divorce, the question of who gets the family pet is part of the personal property division of the settlement.

Because Georgia law asserts that pets are considered personal property, they are often awarded to only one spouse. While for some couples this works, for those couples who both considered the pet to be a member of the family, a mutual agreement on who gets to keep the pet can cause tension during the divorce. Pet custody cases actually seem to be growing in number across the country, with both parties wishing to have access to the pet they love.

Because these types of cases are growing, judges in some states are more willing to look at other possibilities when it comes to the custody of a pet. There are several factors that have to be considered when it comes to determining which spouse will receive custody. These factors include who the pet prefers, if the pet was neglected by one owner, if one owner’s property is more suitable for the pet to live, if one owner can better afford to properly care for the pet and if children are involved who are attached to the pet. The overall, long-term interest of the pet must be taken into account.

Property division can be a straight-forward process regarding many items when dividing marital assets during a divorce. However, when it comes to a pet that is more like a family member, a specific settlement regarding the custody of the pet may be necessary. While a judge may grant custody to one spouse, if equal visitation or shared custody is desired by the couple, they may be able to negotiate a legal agreement outside of court, dictating the ownership of their pet.

Source: Huffington Post, Who Gets the Family Dog After Divorce?, Nancy Kay, Nov. 10, 2013