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Who Gets the Dog in a Divorce?

by | Jun 7, 2022

Figuring out who gets what in a divorce is one of the most stressful things about it. Even with children and property where there are already well-established laws; it often ends in fierce battles and court cases. 

But what happens to pets? Who gets to keep the family dog?

For many families, pets are important and valued members. They offer love, loyalty, and companionship. However, the close relationship between pets and their owners goes unnoticed by the law. And this is where the problem lies. How does the law view your pet?

How You See Your Pet Vs. the Law

According to the law, pets are considered property. To most pet owners, that’s outrageous. Almost insulting. But that’s the reality you will face in court when deciding your pet’s future. So, what exactly does this scenario look like?

Treating Dog Custody as Property Settlement 

When pets are considered personal property, there are divided between the parties in the same way as vehicles, assets, and land. This process is entirely conducted by the court and unless an appeal is made, the decision is final.

The only problem is most pet owners would be pretty uncomfortable having their precious pets treated like inanimate objects. The only way out of this situation is to be fortunate enough to get a judge who shares your feelings about pets.

Dog Custody Agreements Between Partners

If the judge is a pet-lover, they may allow the parties to argue for custody and visitation rights for their dog. These would be conducted in pretty much the same way as in trials for human children.

The partners would bring up points such as: 

  • Who bought the pet
  • Who spends more time with the pet
  • Who is more involved with veterinary visits
  • Who can afford to maintain the lifestyle that the animal is accustomed to

Sometimes witnesses, photo evidence, and expert opinion will be required.

Once these points have been presented, then the judge will decide which of the two parties deserves to keep the pet or be allowed visitation. If further intervention is needed, the judge can order a mediation session to help the parties come to an agreement. 

The Dog as the Children’s Property

Parties with children have the advantage of claiming the pet as their children’s property. What this does is simplify the custody struggle by allowing the pets to share the same schedule as the children. Where the child goes, the pet goes. Parties also share costs in the same proportion as they do with their human children.

This solution is one of the best there is because children usually form strong bonds with family pets. By allowing them to move around with them, they may adjust to the changes of divorce better.

Divorces can be confusing events. By knowing all the options available to you, you will avoid causing distress to those caught in between. If you have any further questions about your beloved pet’s well-being in a divorce, talk to a divorce attorney at our firm to help you understand your options.

Written by Vanden Heuvel & Dineen, S.C.

Divorce | Family Law

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