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Do you have a divorce plan for your dog? What about the cat?

Dogs and cats are popular fixtures in American households and are often treated like they're valuable family members. However, in divorce court, the four-legged family members are actually considered property.

Because of that, you may want to give some thought to a divorce plan for your dog or cat. Here are some things to consider:

1. Do you want custody of the dog or cat? If you're moving, it may be hard to find an apartment or rental that will allow pets, especially dogs over a certain size.

2. If you purchased the dog or cat, it doesn't necessarily mean that you're really the owner. Was it purchased as a birthday gift? If so, it may belong to your spouse. On the other hand, if you bought the pup or kitten together, you may have a harder time identifying who the real owner actually is.

3. Who takes care of the dog or cat? Be honest -- if you love the dog but don't really want to take care of him, but your spouse is willing to handle poop-duty, the vet, medication, feedings, brushing and baths -- your spouse might be the better caretaker.

4. Is your spouse trying to use the dog or cat as a tool to get something else of value out of you? You can challenge the emotional blackmail by breaking down the actual value of the dog, for example. If an English Mastiff cost $1000 as a puppy, how much has that dog depreciated at age 4, given the average lifespan of the breed? If so, you could make a credible argument that the dog is only worth a small amount of money that you're willing to pay.

5. You can make a strong case that the dog should stay with you by presenting evidence that the dog is emotionally attached to you and you are its primary caretaker. Pictures, vet records, purchase receipts for tools and photos may help.

6. You can resolve the whole issue by having an agreement written up that specifically settles the issue in advance. Pet agreements are becoming more common in courts -- and judges generally honor the agreements.

For more information on property division issues, reach out for legal guidance.

Source: Forbes, "How Are Pets Handled In Divorce?," Jeff Landers, accessed Nov. 03, 2017

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