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More couples want to handle dog ownership like child custody

It is not uncommon for Massachusetts parents to disagree over how to split custody of their children. Some divorces even drag out for longer than necessary while parents try to sort out the best possible child custody agreement. Now though, "pet parents" are starting to go through the same thing.

For many pet owners -- particularly those who do not have children -- beloved animals are increasingly seen as valued members of the family. Unfortunately, that is not how family law views pets. Owners are often shocked to discover that their pets are seen as little more than property. Some are even ordered to sell their animals and then split the money with their exes. For most people, though, this feels unacceptable.

Although it can be difficult, it is usually best for couples to work out a pet care arrangement on their own. Individuals can address how time with a pet will be shared, who will foot the vet bills and who is responsible for food costs. Doing so can help prevent any unwanted actions during the divorce, such as being ordered to sell the pet or pay an ex to maintain ownership.

Cats, dogs and other beloved pets all serve deeply valuable roles in Massachusetts families. For most people, these creatures are far more than just animals -- they are family. Although child custody for pets is not a staple of family law, divorcees can protect their relationship with their animals by working out agreements between themselves. Many choose to consult with someone experienced in family law matters to make sure that these agreements are valid and can be upheld in the event that one person deviates from the included terms.

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