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Divorce leads to unusual pet custody hearing

For Texas spouses who are considering divorce, a common question involves what will happen to the family pets, should the marriage end. While this consideration is not always the top priority within a divorce proceeding, it does become a central issue for some spouses. One highly unusual case has led to a scheduled hearing for the sole purpose of determining pet "custody" between one set of divorcing spouses.

The case centers on Joey, a 2-year-old miniature dachshund. The dog was purchased by one spouse and given to the other as a gift. Now, both spouses want to keep Joey after their marriage is dissolved, and cannot come to an agreement over the matter. A judge will soon make a decision on the issue, the outcome of which could guide other family courts across the nation.

In many cases, judges are reluctant to address pet custody within a divorce proceeding. The subject is often swept under the overall umbrella of property division, and spouses are expected to work the matter out between themselves. While there may be a growing shift toward considering the best interests of an animal during property division hearings, pet owners have very little assurance that the care and custody of their beloved animal will receive any form of judicial attention.

This divorce case is unusual because an entire hearing will be held on the matter of which spouse is best suited to care for their shared pet. As the case moves forward, pet lovers in Texas and across the nation will follow the progression. The manner in which Joey's "custody" is determined could influence the decisions made by family court judges across the country.

Source: New York Post, Landmark custody battle over dog in divorce, Julia Marsh, Dec. 4, 2013

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