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Should your dog be treated like a child or a toaster during divorce?

When it comes to the division of marital property during divorce, some things are easy. He gets the TV, she gets the antique furniture. But deciding who gets to keep the beloved family pets isn't always so simple.

In fact, the way we treat our pets is often more akin to the way we treat our children - so does a custody and visitation agreement make more sense than a property division settlement?

One Canadian couple thought so. According to the Washington Post, the wife took her divorce to court and argued that she should be the one to keep their three dogs - Quill, Kenya and Willow - while her ex-husband was left with "visitation rights." The way she saw it, it wouldn't be a problem to grant her ex specified times to visit the dogs, while letting them live with her.

Unfortunately, the Canadian judge didn't agree. He acknowledged that dogs are "wonderful creatures" and are often treated like family, but he refused to give them the same legal status as children. Under the law, he explained, dogs are property, nothing more.

The judge compared the dogs to butter knives, asking if the divorcing couple would expect him to give the knives to one party, while granting the other party the right to use the knives at specified times during the week? Of course not.

So What Does This Mean In California?

Obviously, Canadian laws differ from U.S. laws. However, the two countries do tend to agree on certain points. Here in America, pets are also considered property to be divided when their owners get divorced - just like the kitchen appliances or the bank accounts.

Yet they're not quite the same as other types of property. You can name your dog as the beneficiary of your trust, and you can be thrown in jail for animal cruelty. You can't say the same for your toaster. Clearly, pets are treated differently in many areas of the law.

Although the family law courts lag behind, it may only be a matter of time before you can create "parenting plans" for Fido or Fluffy. The best way to stay up-to-date about your rights under California law is to talk with a divorce lawyer today.

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