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How to keep your furry friend when your marriage ends

When you and your spouse decide to call it quits, it can feel like your whole world is crumbling around you. In addition to losing your life partner, you may also be losing your home, your lifestyle and even members of your social circle. It can add insult to injury to discover that your loyal companion of many years – your pet – may also be on the line.

In Washington – as in many states – pets are still considered personal property in the eyes of the law. This means that in a divorce, considerations such as custody and support are not factored in – as they are with children. If your divorce goes to court, a judge will decree which member of the couple gets the pet.

If the prospect of losing your devoted furry friend is more than you can bear, consider taking these steps to keep your pet in your life.

Make a pet agreement during the divorce

In a collaborative divorce, you and your spouse agree on the terms of your divorce with the help of an attorney. You draft the divorce agreement yourselves, and you can settle on how to share custody of your pet. Even if you and your spouse can’t agree on every aspect of your divorce – and your case does go to court – you can still work with your spouse to create an agreement with respect to your pet. A judge will, in all likelihood, accept whatever terms you agree upon.

Make a pet agreement in advance

You and your spouse can also plan for the future of your pet when you first adopt them. If you and your partner get a pet before you get married, you can create a prenuptial agreement outlining how you’ll share your pet in the event of a divorce. A postnuptial agreement can serve the same function, if you get a pet after you’re already married.

Going through a divorce can be physically and emotionally draining. Your pet can provide vital support in helping you get through it.