Many dog owners expect that if they had the dog before marrying, then it’ll automatically remain in their custody once the divorce is finalized. That’s not necessarily the case though.
While it is important who the dog belonged to prior to the marriage, it also matters who took care of it during the marriage. If you can prove that you were its primary caretaker throughout the relationship, then the judge may rule it’s in the dog’s best interest to continue being taken care of by you.
Even though that’s the case, it’s important to know that pets are considered as personal property in a divorce. What that means is that your pet won’t be treated like a child, but instead more like a piece of artwork. When you and your spouse go to divide up property, your dog will be assigned a monetary value and split up accordingly.
In order to assign a worth to your dog, a judge will hear the different attorneys’ arguments as a monetary value that should be assigned. The dog’s age, breed, overall health, special abilities and any other unique qualities will need to be taken into account to arrive at the valuation. The number agreed to should reflect what an average prospective owner would pay if he or she was to adopt the dog that day.
Although dogs are considered personal property, because they’re living, breathing creatures, it’s still possible to convince a judge that you two should share joint custody or visitation of a dog as well.
This often happens when a spouse brought the dog into the relationship, yet their spouse took primary care of it. It’s also commonplace in divorces with minor kids. Having the dog consistently around may be seen as being in the best interest of the child. In each of these cases, the couple may be ordered to come up with a shared custody agreement for the dog.
Whichever spouse is named the primary custodian of the dog will ultimately be responsible for taking care of its needs.
It’s important to try to work out solutions outside of the courtroom whenever possible to avoid having a judge make decisions for you. Mediation might be a particularly effective option in helping you and your ex work though issues. If you are currently separated, a Houston divorce attorney may be able to help you in dividing up your assets.
Source: Daily Breeze, “Who gets the dogs in a divorce?,” Ron Sokol, Aug. 22, 2017