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Steven A. Mason Steven A. Mason
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Divorce mediation could help with pet “custody”

When Florida couples decide to divorce, the range of issues that need to be addressed varies according to the spouses involved. Some families will focus primarily on child custody issues; others will place property division at the top of their priority list. For those with pets that they adore, pet “custody” can become a major item of contention. Divorce mediation can help couples work through this and other divorce difficulties.

Couples who are able to reach an agreement on who will retain the family pet can save a significant volume of time and money versus those who end up taking the matter in front of a judge. In many cases, family court judges are unwilling to weigh in on the matter, and will treat pets in the same manner as furniture or other pieces of property. Spouses should make every effort to approach the disposition of the household pets in a reasonable and fair manner.

One recent case represents a departure from the norm in addressing this issue in court. A judge recently ruled that the issue of pet “custody” could be presented in a separate hearing during a couple’s divorce proceeding. While the spouses eventually came to an agreement outside of court, the case does represent a change in the way that some judges are willing to view these matters.

For Florida couples who face a pet custody debate, the best possible solution is one that is reached outside of a courtroom. Taking the matter before a judge is no guarantee of resolution, as many family court judges will simply refuse to weigh in on the issue. Even when a judge is open to hearing these arguments, the resulting order may not be in line with the needs of either the parties or the animals in the center of the debate. Divorce mediation can help spouses reach an agreement that provides beloved pets with the care and attention that they deserve. In some cases, couples can even agree on a schedule by which they share the responsibilities and pleasures of caring for their pets even after their divorce is made final.

Source: New York Post, Dog fight over in dachshund custody battle, Julia Marsh, Dec. 10, 2013

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