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New York judge will hear state's first pet custody dispute

Pet custody is a serious issue in many New York divorce cases. Few people want to lose their pets just because their marriages are ending. Determining who gets to keep a beloved dog or cat in the event of divorce is very complicated in New York. Divorcing couples often want these disputes handled in the way that child custody cases are handled, but the law does not exactly allow for that.

Under New York law, pets are property. In the event of divorce, any dispute over pet ownership should technically fall into the harsh category of property division. One judge, however, would like to see that changed, and he has agreed to hear a pet custody case.

The case involves a couple whose only unresolved divorce-related conflict is the custody of their Dachshund, Joey.

A Washington Heights woman bought the pup for her then-girlfriend as a gift about two years ago. The couple ended up marrying, and now that they are divorcing they both want Joey.

The judge has said he will not evaluate the dispute as if the dog is property, but rather the hearing will involve elements similar to those in a child custody dispute. The judge will likely want to learn who cared for Joey, who spent more time with him, and who is best equipped to care for him post-divorce.

Generally, those who cannot agree on pet custody issues should talk to their family law attorneys about their options. In most cases, it is wise to work out a custody arrangement outside of court.

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