Divorce can be difficult, and when there are pets involved, it can present unique circumstances. Although you may consider your pets as part of your family, in most states, the law considers them as property. If you are going through a divorce that includes pets, you may be wondering what options are available. Do you and your ex-spouse both have rights over your pets?
Pet Custody and Divorce
According to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML), in a poll that included 1,500 of its members, 25 percent of members saw an increase in pet custody issues in 2014. The poll showed that dogs were the most disputed animal, at 88 percent, and cats were in second place, at five percent. Nowadays, it is an even more prevalent issue due to an increase of pets in American households.
In the United Sates, there are around 74 million dogs in 43.5 million households, and there are over 90 million cats in 37.7 million households, according to a survey by the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association. Although most states consider pets as property in a divorce, other states have special assessments that judges can use to determine custody.
When Must a Judge Decide?
If you and your ex-spouse fail to decide who gets your pets, a judge will figure out who was the original owner and decide for you. In most instances, the judge will order that the pets go with the party who had them before the marriage, regardless of who was the primary caretaker of the pets during the marriage.
If the pets were a gift from your ex-spouse, then the judge will look at who cared for the pets more, as well as who is better able to care for the pets. In many cases, judges require parties to show receipts proving which spouse is the most functional caregiver.
It is possible to co-parent your pets. However, it is important to understand that doing this may make it difficult for you to move on emotionally.
It is important to come up with a written agreement with your ex-spouse when deciding what happens to your pets. You should also file the written agreement if you want the court to enforce it as part of the divorce. Having a written agreement is beneficial because both parties know what to expect. Written agreements are not always permanent, and you and your ex-spouse have a right to agree to something other than what is written.
Towson Divorce Lawyers at Huesman, Jones & Miles, LLC Represent Clients Going Through a Divorce
The divorce process can be long and stressful, but the right lawyer can get you through the process with an outcome in your favor. Contact one of our Towson divorce lawyers at Huesman, Jones & Miles, LLC today. Our experienced lawyers will fight hard for your rights. For a free consultation, contact us online or call us at 443-589-0150. Located in Hunt Valley and Towson, Maryland, we serve clients throughout Baltimore, Baltimore County, Bel Air, Bentley Springs, Columbia, Freeland, Hereford, Hampton, Westminster, Essex, Monkton, Sparks Glencoe, Parkton, Phoenix, Pikesville, White Hall, Carroll County, Harford County, and Howard County.