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Difficult problem of canine custody goes to state's high court

A couple of months ago, we discussed how an estranged couple's pets can become a source of dispute and even be used as a bargaining chip as they hash out their divorce. One couple's dispute over their 11-year-old dog went all the way to the Vermont Supreme Court.

The lower court found the husband "treats the dog like a dog" and Baker treats the German wirehaired pointer like a child. The court ruled in favor of the veterinarian having custody of the dog.

The man's ex-wife appealed the ruling to the Vermont Supreme Court. She argued that there was no evidence that her ex-husband's attitude toward the treatment of dogs was better than hers. She also argued that the court failed to consider a joint custody arrangement.

The attorney for the veterinarian, however, said the lower court judge felt that under state law, she could not split custody of the animal between the couple. The lawyer said the judge "made it very, very clear that she was not going to consider a sharing arrangement or custodial arrangement or anything that would have the dog going back and forth between the parties." The judge ruled that while both people could provide a happy home for their canine companion, the dog was used to his routine of spending his days at the veterinary hospital.

The Supreme Court justices agreed with the lower court ruling, which reportedly came after an emotional hearing. The veterinarian's attorney noted that both attorneys and the judge in that case loved dogs and were "very much aware of what was at stake emotionally."

Many Texas couples are every bit as attached to their four-legged family members as this couple. When a couple that splits up has no children, the thought of losing a beloved pet who is a source of companionship, love and solace can be devastating.

When there are children involved, the loss of a pet can only add misery to an already confusing and tumultuous time in their lives. Texas family law attorneys can work with their clients to do everything possible to help them keep their animals.

Source: News & Record, "After divorce, court won't allow joint dog custody" No author given, May. 20, 2014

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