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Custody of pets in divorce getting more attention from lawmakers

In the United States, pets have become much more than a possession to their owners. In fact, in many homes, pets have taken on the role of furry children. For this reason, the issue of who will retain custody of a beloved animal after a divorce has gotten more attention from lawmakers in several states. Though South Carolina has yet to address the matter through legislation, many residents who are facing a divorce may be worried about who will get custody of a cherished animal.

While a few states have passed laws that require family courts to treat pets in a manner similar to children, most have not yet taken this step. However, a lawmaker in another state has introduced legislation that would require pets to be formally categorized as "companion animals." This designation would ensure that the ownership of pets would be taken into special consideration and with more gravity than the ownership of furniture.

This particular lawmaker explained that, in her private law practice, she took part in divorces that involved custody of pets. Animal rights groups and voters are purportedly in favor of the legislation, but not all family law attorneys are in agreement. While some expressed their understanding that the custody of pets is a more emotional issue than the division of other property, there is not uniform agreement over whether the matter requires a formal law.

One critic of the proposed bill stated that the term "companion animal" does not differentiate between a typical pet or a farm animal. In addition, the bill includes guidelines concerning who can better provide for the pet and which partner has a stronger bond with the animal; both of which are often difficult to ascertain. The issue is certainly an emotional one, and South Carolina residents who are struggling to resolve this issue and others related to their divorce will likely benefit from the guidance of an experienced attorney. 

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