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Pets: Property or people in Massachusetts?

Here's an interesting thought that you may not have considered having to face in your Massachusetts divorce: Your dog. Did you know that your dog will not be treated as a child or person but instead as a piece of property to be divided just like a home or vehicle? This article from June 20 discusses how to handle your pet in a family law court.

It's become more common for people to fight over their pets during a divorce; Melanie Griffith and Antonio Banderas, for instance, have three dogs that Griffith wants custody of. Because of the amount of money people spend on their pets, the idea that obtaining custody of a pet may be costly is no laughing matter. The law sees a pet as a "thing," so if you want to keep your pet, you might have to give up another asset to "pay" for the right to have your pet.

The way a judge deals with the custody of an animal could vary. Some judges may consider who took care of the pet more or who was interacting with the pet the most often. Others will treat a pet like an object; when that happens, whoever gets the pet will have to pay for it by giving up something in the divorce. There is no specific law regarding the custody of pets, but under the domestic violence code, if a restraining order has been issued, the person who asked for the restraining order can request to keep the pet, too.

So, how can you keep your pet's future secure? The article claims that the only real way to do so is with a prenuptial agreement. A postnuptial agreement can also be used; these documents can state who will keep the pets and in what circumstances.

Source: The Daily Beast, "Divorce Is Going to the Dogs, Literally" Keli Goff, Jun. 20, 2014

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