Dividing Property During Divorce: Who Will Get To Keep The Dog?

Law Articles

Family pets can be as dear as children to a married couple, and deciding who will get custody of the dog can often cause a lot of heartache for both parties. However, arguing for pet custody can end up being both exhausting and disheartening, as the court decisions on pet custody can be complex. Understanding how the law will work in this instance can help you prepare to argue custody for your pet if you are going through a divorce. 

Pets As Property

Most states in the United States usually dictate which party in the divorce will get the dog based on ownership. This helps to keep complicated matters simple, especially because dogs are not afforded the same rights as a human child would be in a similar situation, even if you view your pet as a member of your family. The courts will try to determine which spouse is the actual owner of the dog. In court, to help prove you own your dog, your case will hold more weight with

  • a receipt of purchase that is in your name, not your spouse's
  • a witness who testifies that the pet was given to you as a gift from an outside person, or even as a gift from your spouse
  • licensing held in your name
  • proof that you owned the animal before entering into your marriage

The spouse with greater proof of property will generally have much greater pull for winning custody in court. 

Building A Case When Ownership Is Not Clear

If you do not have proof of property, or if the proof of property lies in favor of your spouse, you will need to build a case with your lawyer to help the court decide in your favor. This can be done by showing that the dog really is community property, and therefore should be divided as equitably as is possible. 

Usually, if your lawyer can prove that you had a greater hand in caring for the pet, and that you were financially involved in the dog's life, you can show that the dog should be treated as community property, instead of the property of the purchasing spouse. For instance, if your spouse bought the dog for $300, but you were the one to buy all pet equipment and food, it could be argued that your contribution outweighs the contribution of your former partner.

You can also build a case by showing which spouse has a greater need for the companionship of the animal. Even if your spouse was the one who made the original purchase of the dog, you can prove that you have a greater need for your dog to stay with you. For example, if you struggle with depression and your doctor recommends a companionship animal, your family lawyer can argue this stance in court to help you get custody. 

You should know that sometimes, one spouse may get custody, but the other may get visitation rights for the dog. If it seems like you will not win, at least argue for some rights to see your pet regularly. 

Best Interests

Unfortunately, courts cannot take a stand based on "what would be best for the dog." This stance would introduce a slippery slope; since a dog cannot be interviewed, nor can it testify, gathering clear evidence would be more difficult. Furthermore, it would open cases up to huge levels of subjectivity, especially because a judge would essentially have to decide who the dog loves/needs more. That being said, proof of abuse or ill-will toward a pet can help to sway custody arguments. Talk to your family law attorney about how you fear your pet may be treated if your former partner gains custody and get their opinion on whether or not it will help your case. 


10 July 2015

Car Accident Clues

It can be hard to know what to do to protect yourself legally in the immediate aftermath of a car accident. You’re liable to be disoriented or in shock, you may be injured, and you’re surely worried about your passenger or the other driver. At least, that’s how I felt. The thing is, the things you say and do in the immediate aftermath of an accident may affect a legal case later. Depending on who’s at fault and what the laws are in your state, you may want to sue the other driver for damages, or you may find yourself being sued. My blog is designed to give you tips for a car accident lawsuit, no matter which side you find yourself on.