When You Divorce, Who Gets To Keep The Dog?

Posted on: 8 March 2016

Divorces are certainly simpler when you do not have any kids, but if you do have a dog together, that can add some intricacies to the divorce proceedings. Likely, the both of you have bonded with the dog over the years. He is a part of the family, and neither of you want to leave him behind. Yet, as you proceed through the divorce, a decision will need to be made regarding who gets to keep the dog. Here's a look at how that question is typically approached.

Pets are technically considered property.

When a couple with a child splits up, the court must establish which parent has custody over the child. The decision is made based primarily on what is best for the child. Many people wrongfully assume that custody over a dog is determined in a similar manner. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Dogs are considered physical property. As such, custody laws that apply to children don't really apply to them. In deciding who gets to keep the pet, the court will treat the pet like any other piece of property -- like a painting or car. The court won't focus on doing what is best for the pet as they would a child. Rather, the goal will be to do what is best and fair for the divorcing spouses.

What factors are considered when deciding who gets to keep the pet?

Assuming that both of you want the dog, the judge may consider several factors to help decide who deserves to keep him. These include:

Who bought the dog? If you physically purchased the dog, this could be taken to indicate that you are more of an owner to the dog than your spouse and are thus more deserving of keeping it.

Who provides the dog's care? This question is asked not to ensure the dog's care, but to ensure that the person who has put the most time and effort into the dog's care is rewarded for doing so. If you can prove that you're the one who feeds the dog, takes him to the vet, and trains him, this may help convince the court that you should be the one to keep the dog.

What is the dog's value? Deciding who gets to keep a adopted mutt is a big different than deciding who gets to keep a $5,000 show dog. If the dog has a significant value, the judge will take that into account when deciding who gets to keep it. You may have to give up other valuable assets in order to keep the dog in order to ensure the marital assets are evenly distributed.

After evaluating the dog's value,who provides his care, and who had more involvement in purchasing the dog, the judge will make a ruling as to who deserves to keep the dog. Note that proving that you're the dog's main caregiver or purchaser can take some effort. Your lawyer, such as from the Law Office of Diane F. Russell, can help you collect the proper evidence to make such a case.