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What happens to family pets during a Maryland divorce?

On Behalf of | Jan 24, 2024 | Firm News

Many emotional issues arise during Maryland divorces. People often develop sentimental attachment to certain assets, such as the marital home. If the spouses have children together, they could likely feel very strongly about any proposed custody arrangements.

There may be other members of the family who can also complicate divorce proceedings. People who have pets often treat them like members of the family. They get gifts on holidays and come along during family vacations. The idea that someone could lose their relationship with their beloved animal might make them incredibly emotional during divorce negotiations.

What is the typical approach to family pets during a Maryland divorce?

Pet custody is a complex issue

Most people who share their homes and lives with animals feel a strong attachment to those pets. They may have a hard time imagining their daily walk if they don’t have their dog with them, for example. They may rely on their pet as a key form of emotional support during a tumultuous time. Many people comfort themselves with the idea of a shared pet custody arrangement as they prepare for divorce.

Unfortunately, such arrangements are not the standard in Maryland divorce. The courts do not view pets as family members entitled to judicial consideration during divorce proceedings. Instead, pets are property according to state law. Judges typically determine if the animal is marital or non0marital, and then award the pet to one spouse or the other during property division proceedings.

Those seeking joint pet custody have options

The good news for those worried about losing access to a pet during divorce is that couples have the option of setting terms on their own behalf that deviate from what the courts would do. They can negotiate an arrangement where they share custody of the pet, as well as decision-making authority and financial responsibility for its expenses.

If there are minor children, the spouses may agree that the dog goes back and forth between households with the children, for example. Other times, someone with a very demanding career could request visitation access to spend time with the pet after the divorce.

The emotions associated with family pets can lead to irrational decisions during divorce proceedings, such as trying to take a matter to trial when a judge cannot rule the way that people hope. Learning more about the Maryland approach to pets and property division may benefit those worried about an animal that they love as they prepare for divorce.