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The first frontier for pet custody

For Alaska resident Bobby Poth, dogs are more than man’s best friend. He considers them his children. So much so, he wanted to ease a difficult, life-changing transition for his pets.

Two years ago, Poth and his spouse decided to break up. Like any divorce, each of them had certain needs and demands. However, they remained friends after the breakup and took a collaborative approach to their marital dissolution. Cooperation and civility helped the divorcing couple focus on the best interests of their “canine kids.”

As part of their divorce decree, the court granted them shared custody of the beloved pets.

The new year brought a new amendment to Alaska divorce statutes. The Last Frontier is the first state that requires family law courts to consider the well-being of animals in a family experiencing divorce. Judges are now empowered to assign joint custody of pets.

The feelings of dogs and other pets are taken into consideration in not only custody and visitation, but also monetary support. The bill also includes pets in domestic violence protective orders. Owners must cover the cost of a shelter if a pet was seized following allegations of cruelty or neglect.

Alaska has blazed a new trail as the only state that does not consider pets as objects subject to division. Placing pets where the children primarily live or having the animals remain with the spouse who purchased them has become a thing of the past.

The end of the marriage splits one household into two. In our 49th state, the doghouses will double as well.

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Lorrie J. Zahodnic

"I will hold you up until you can stand on your own two feet."

Lorrie J. Zahodnic, P.C. has provided skilled and compassionate legal guidance to Michiganders in family law matters for over 20 years.

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