Lisa L. Johnson, Attorney at Law
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Property division law: When your 4-legged friend is in the middle

These days, many Kentucky couples decide they are not ready for children or just do not want to have them. Instead, they have one or more 4-legged friends they treat as children. If the marriage fails, deciding what happens to the family pet can be problematic, especially since the law still considers who gets the pet under property division laws, not custody laws.

When some of those Kentucky couples are unable to work out a settlement agreement on their own, they end up allowing the court to make their decisions for them. If there is a pet involved, the court may be sympathetic to a couple's plight, but the law does not a judge much choice. Without children involved, a judge may require the parties to sell their beloved pet and split the proceeds. In the alternative, one party could buy the pet from the other.

Settling issues with pets in court often boils down to an impersonal exchange of money. If the parties really want to work something out, the court would more than likely approve any arrangement they come to regarding their pet. As is the case with children, it would be necessary to set aside their differences in order to make any agreement work. Couples who do so have worked out visitation schedules for their pets. 

For couples who only have 4-legged children, figuring out what happens to them in the divorce may take some cooperation if both parties want to be able to spend time with their pets. Otherwise, the family pet remains subject to the state's property division laws, and that might not end as the either party would prefer. Moreover, battling in court over this issue may seem better than battling over a set of china, but the outcome would still be the same -- someone would be disappointed and both parties would be out time and money that may be better spent elsewhere.

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