Puppy love complicates property division in Massachusetts

Massachusetts couples who are beginning the divorce process are often caught off guard with the sheer volume of details that need to be ironed out. Issues of property division and child custody usually top the list of priorities, but there are many smaller details that must be dealt with as well. Splitting one household into two, and working out which party will retain which assets, can be a very complicated procedure.

Many spouses make assumptions about where the family pets will reside following a split. They are often surprised, however, when they learn that the other spouse holds opposing opinions on the matter. When couples cannot agree about where the pets will live, they often ask a judge to decide.

Many states treat pets as marital property, and some judges will refuse to become involved in decisions over where they will live following the divorce. Others may address the issue, working out a detailed ‘custody’ arrangement that splits time with the pets between the two spouses. However, it is important to understand that no judge can make a truly comprehensive determination about what is in the best interests of a pet, simply because the judge is not familiar with the animal or its relationship with the parties.

As with most property division issues surrounding a Massachusetts divorce, the best resolution is one in which the parties work together to find a solution that works best for them. It is important to try and keep the pet’s best interests at the forefront, and to try to remove emotion and any trace of bitterness from the decision-making process. Once an agreement has been reached, the provisions can be laid out within the divorce settlement, which should reduce the chances of conflict over the arrangement once the process is complete.

Source: The Huffington Post, “Pet Custody,” Henry Gornbein, Oct. 23, 2012

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