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Who gets custody of a pet in a Georgia divorce?

We all know someone who owns a pet that is more like family than just a furry friend.

That's especially true in millennial households, which have fewer kids – and more pets – than previous generations did. In fact, a 2016 report said that 75 percent of people in the United States who are in their thirties own dogs, and 51 percent of them have cats. We assume statistics in Georgia are similar.

So what happens to those four-legged family members when a family splits up?

For years, it seemed to be a foregone conclusion that the person who bought the pet would take it with them in a divorce and there wouldn't be any visitation by the other party.

Since 2017, Alaska, Illinois and California have passed bills that allow judges to treat custody of animals much the same way they do the custody of children: what's in the best interest of the animal.

"There's an overall trend in the law to recognize that animals do have interests that are independent of their guardians or what they're producing," a staff attorney at the Animal Legal Defense Fund said in an interview with a national magazine.

If you don't have a prenuptial agreement that covers custody of a pet, ownership will be left in the hands of a judge. The judge typically will consider the following:

Who adopted or bought the pet?

  • Which member of the couple is the main caretaker?
  • Who pays the veterinarian and who buys the food and takes care of meals?
  • Why spends the most time with the animal?
  • Who might have the most space for the animal after the relationship ends?

In many relationships, our pets are our children. A family law attorney in Georgia can help you make your case for gaining custody of them going forward.

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