The Investigators

May 9, 2012 1:00 AM

Investigating pet custody post divorce

TUCSON - Couples are fighting like cats and dogs in divorce court over their cats and dogs.

Divorce attorneys say in more and more cases, decisions about who gets Fido or Fluffy will make or break a divorce settlement.

Don Armijo of Tucson was recently divorced. He said custody of the family's three Chihuahuas was the most important issue for him.

Armijo told us, "It's unfair to them, and it's unfair to the adults in the situation, to not be able to share them, cause we both love them equally."

But in the eyes of the law, all dogs are pretty much the same. Pets are considered to be property. And attorneys say that while a judge can easily award an animal to one party or the other, smart couples settle the matter with a civil agreement, separate from the main divorce settlement.

Tucson attorney Elisabeth Benavidez said, "the court really doesn't have any authority to give somebody rights of access or time with a pet. It's property."

So Benavidez counsels clients like Don Armijo, to settle the pet issue since that can lead to a smoother and faster resolution of the entire break-up.

"And they understood that a judge probably wouldn't have the same concerns that they did in deciding what arrangement would be best for the pet."

Don now gets visitation with the dogs every other day for at least an hour.

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