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Steven J. Gaba, Attorney and Counselor at Law
Phone: 301-738-7770

Family law courts seeing more pet custody cases

There are many issues that may come up during a divorce -- some more contested than others. For example, division of the marital property may not be easy when neither spouse can agree on who keeps the house. Moreover, cases involving custody of a child or children can be particularly difficult, especially when the divorcing couple disagree on the child's best interests. However, Maryland residents may be interested to know that there are more and more cases involving pet custody in family law courts across the nation.

While pet custody cases may lack the emotional impact of a child custody case, they may certainly still be bitterly contested. After all, most pet owners have emotional attachments to the family pet, and letting go of the pet could be mentally stressful. Despite this, most courts in the past simply treated pets as pieces of property; no more important than a couch or a table.

Times appear to be changing. According to a news report about the matter, judges are beginning to recognize that for many families, pets are a part of the family. That has led to some pet custody cases taking on many of the same features as child custody arrangements, such as visitation and custodial rights.

Pet custody is just one issue among many that may arise in the event of a divorce between spouses. In Maryland for instance, the couple may either have to come to an agreement relating to items such as division of property, spousal support and custody between themselves, or request that a judge make that decision for them. In the event of the latter, a family law judge will weigh and balance several factors before rendering a decision, and knowing these factors beforehand may well help secure a favorable result.

Source: The Washington Post, "Child may have an edge when custody of dog is at stake, but who gets dog when it is the child?," Feb. 28, 2012

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