Are pets assets or part of the family? States are passing laws that give judges a longer leash in divorce custody proceedings

Lawyers are supposed to be dispassionate about the cases they handle. But a California couple’s 2015 divorce fight over a dog named Sweet Pea nearly broke one attorney’s heart.

Erin Levine, a certified specialist in family law and owner of the Levine Family Law Group in Emeryville, California, recalls a husband who adopted a pit bull-type dog at a shelter. When he brought the dog home, he gave his wife a greeting card. She recalls it read: “This [dog] is your gift for Christmas. I love you.” Both parties were very attached to the pet and extremely anxious about the outcome. They had no children, so Sweet Pea was their child.

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