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No bones about it, New York pet custody battle will be a first

Some of our readers have likely heard about the complicated family law issue of pet custody. While nearly all 50 states perceive pets as personal property that can easily be divided in a divorce, pet owners aren’t so sure and have started requesting pet custody hearings similar to those used in child custody disputes. But because many state laws lag behind, family law judges have been finding themselves more and more often in uncharted territory.

Such is the case for a New York family law judge who will hear the first matrimonial pet custody case in New York’s history. At the center of the case is a same-sex couple who is currently fighting over sole custody of their two-year-old miniature dachshund. While one of the women claims that she should have custody of the dog because she considers him her "soul mate" and says that there was no way that she could live without him, her soon-to-be ex-spouse disagrees, stating that she cared for him the most and supported him more financially than her spouse.

Because New York law views the dog as personal property -- considering it not much more special than a toaster -- Manhattan Justice Matthew Cooper says that he will have to handle the case much like he would a child custody case.  As he told reports recently, he intends on holding a hearing at which time he will determine who bore the majority of responsibility in taking care of the dog and what is in the pet’s best interest.  Although the case is being regarded as a first of its kind in New York, Manhattan Justice Matthew Cooper believes that this won’t be the last.  The hope is that state laws will catch up soon and give judges better guidance for future cases.

Source: The New York Post, "Landmark custody battle over dog in divorce," Julia Marsh, Dec. 4, 2013

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