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What happens to family pets in a Georgia divorce?

Certain property division matters lead to intense emotions and could prompt intense fighting between spouses. People often become anxious or angry at the prospect of dividing certain resources with a spouse. Those who are close to retirement age, for example, may worry about reducing their retirement savings by dividing them.

Other property division matters trigger intense emotions not because of financial concerns but rather personal attachments. For example, pets like cats and dogs become part of the family. People love their pets and often integrate them into everything from holiday get-togethers to vacation plans. It is only natural to worry about what might happen with companion animals during a Georgia divorce.

Pets are technically property

Contrary to what people think, pets are not family members in the eyes of the courts. They are assets that have a fixed financial value. A judge hearing a litigated divorce case makes a decision to allocate the pet to one spouse or the other as part of the overall property division process. Family law judges in Georgia do not spend their time putting together shared pet custody arrangements. Spouses who litigate their divorces have to prepare for the possibility that they may lose access to their pets at the end of the process.

Spouses can set their own terms

The good news for those worried about losing access to a pet is that they can set their own terms with their spouses. It is possible for people to agree to share pet custody when they divorce. A judge might approve a property division order or custody agreement for children that includes terms for sharing access to the pet. Otherwise, those divorcing with pets might agree outside of court to have one spouse keep the pet because they are better able to meet its needs while the other could visit occasionally or watch it when the primary owner goes on vacation.

Understanding how Georgia approaches companion animals during a divorce can help people decide how to approach the topic. People who set reasonable expectations are less likely to feel devastated and disappointed by the outcome of a divorce.