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Solving a pet division problem during a Louisiana divorce

Assets don't have to be valuable to be disputable. Grandmother's old tea set may be worth very little to most people, but not to someone who attaches good memories to it. If you're getting a Louisiana divorce, attorneys advise taking the emotional value of property into consideration alongside the market value.

Marital homes are sentimental assets. How many Baton Rouge spouses have battled over the right to keep a home that reminded them of more pleasant times? Unfortunately, many spouses bite off more than they can chew by keeping a house once they realize how costly it is to hold onto it with a single income.

Another bone of contention is a pet. There are plenty of reasons why pets are in dispute, considering how 179 million U.S. dog and cat owners feel. A pet is living, breathing part of our everyday lives, but to Louisiana courts, they're separate or community property.

Judges know pet owners can have such strong feelings about pets and that spouses are willing to resort to legal action to gain custody. Last year, a family judge devoted a full day to hearing the case of a divorcing couple arguing over a dachshund, which was a gift from one spouse to the other.

The judge put aside individual arguments over property and concentrated on the best interests of the pet, not unlike decisions in child custody cases. After all, to many Americans, pets are dependent family members, too. The precedent-setting case set the stage for legal pet division problems.

Today, it's not unusual for spouses to draft pet caregiving agreements. Divorcing owners may choose to share custody, define visitation schedules and divvy up maintenance, medical and feeding costs. These terms also have been known to show up in prenuptial agreements – essentially property agreements -- so pet owners never have to argue about the matter, in the event of a dissolution of marriage.

Source: USA Today, "Pets increasingly at center of divorce battles" Cameron Saucier, Aug. 24, 2014

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