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Which spouse keeps the dog?

On Behalf of | Apr 5, 2022 | Divorce |

Ending a marriage is accompanied by many issues such as property division, maintenance, and child support. The family dog is playing a bigger part in our lives and affections and its custody, care, and cost has complicated divorces.

The law

The law treats dogs as property, such as a vehicle or jewelry, in a divorce. If there is a dispute over pet custody, judges will probably consider who paid for its adoption and care instead of who took care of the dog or who has the closest relationship with the pet.

If you cannot resolve a dispute over ownership or work out an agreement, compile bills and documents indicating payment of the pet’s adoption and its care.  Be prepared to present evidence on taking the dog to the veterinarian, feeding it, and administering medications.

Doggy prenup

Couples need to cooperate and try to take matters into their own hands if they can. Spouses should prepare for the possibility of a divorce by executing a written agreement, like a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, on the dog’s care and custody.

These issues are important when producing an agreement:

  • The spouse who works longer or travels more.
  • The spouse who had the dog first or brought it into the marriage.
  • If the dog clearly favors or bonded more with one of the spouses.
  • Whether there are other family pets, and the couple can make custody decisions based on the relationship of the pets and the spouses.
  • Whether there will be new relationships and families and how the pet would respond to these new situations.

Joint custody

Leaving this decision to a judge can result in a decision which leaves the dog and its owner unhappy. Couples can negotiate this matter along with other divorce issues even if they never entered a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement.

Depending on the couple’s relationship and the dog’s personality, couples may maintain a friendly dog share. This allows each spouse to spend time with their pet.

In some situations, one spouse may be the dog’s primary caregiver. The other spouse can have scheduled visitation and spend more time with the pet as a sitter during the primary caregiver’s vacations or out of town trips.

The best interest of the dog

Child custody issues are decided on the best interest of the child. When dealing with this issue, also remember how your decisions impact your pet.

Sadly, divorce is one of the most common reasons that families relinquish their dogs. Producing a solution can keep your pet out of adoption and keep your family happy.

It is also important to ease their transition during a stressful situation. It may take awhile for a dog to become comfortable going between two homes. They also may experience stress when the couple breaks up.

Finally, never use a pet as a hostage to gain a more beneficial settlement agreement. Pets cannot be a means to extract revenge or impose spite.

Attorneys can assist you with addressing this and other divorce legal issues. They can help you negotiate a fair and reasonable agreement.


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