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Pet Custody and a Massachusetts Divorce

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When two people in Massachusetts divorce, who gets to keep the pet(s)? Can the Probate and Family Court order joint custody of the dog or cat, as it would a child? Can one party get parenting rights? Is a pet treated in a legal sense in the same way as a child, or simply as property? 

Nearly 65% of American households report having a pet. As that number continues to increase, the way in which pets are treated changes. Gone are the days of pet ownership, and today's generation has welcomed a new ideal, fondly referred to as pet parenting.

But the idea that your dog or cat is treated more like a child than an animal doesn't hold up in court. That is, unless you live in Alaska. If you were to get divorced in any of the other 49 states, your pet would be considered property. They'd be treated like your couch or your car, and they'd be sent to live with whichever spouse wanted them the most or fought the hardest. In cases when the marriage doesn't end well, this often means one spouse is completely cut off from their former pet. 

But thanks to a new amendment that took effect in Alaska, pets are now treated more like children. This amendment adds precedence to ensuring an animal's welfare in the event of divorce.

Judges now have the ability to assign joint custody of pets, something that is reserved only for children in every other state.

Pets, dogs especially, are complicated emotional beings who feel grief, anxiety, stress, and sadness as much as humans do. They create powerful bonds with their owners, and in many cases of divorce, it's in the dog's best interest to maintain those relationships.

Many divorced couples arrange their own custody agreements, but this new amendment gives them a legal way to hold their ex-spouses accountable. 

Should you be in the midst of a divorce or contemplating divorce, contact the Law Offices of Renee Lazar either through email or telephone 978-844-4095 to schedule a FREE one hour no obligation consultation.

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Law Offices of Renee Lazar
4308 Thompson Farm
Bedford, MA 01730
Phone: 978-844-4095
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