Divorce Dog Custody: Who Gets to Keep the Dog in a Divorce?

Divorce Dog Custody   By Barbara Knightsbridge   |Updated 04-09-2024

It may happen that marriage, similarly to any other relationship, does not work out. When you and your spouse decide to split up, you may be overwhelmed by all the things that should be taken care of.

With no such experiences in the past, you have no idea how divorce works, and you may have many questions and doubts. There is a lot of information on what the legal procedures are if a married couple has children, but you may have never heard what happens in the case of a dog.

divorce dog custody:  judge gavelDivorce Dog Custody: Who Gets to Keep the Dog in a Divorce?

A house or apartment can be sold, and the vast majority of the property of the married couple can be divided, and, in legal terms, it includes the dog as well.

We may like it or not, but the laws in all the states except Illinois and Alaska perceive pets a property that can be sold the same as the armchair you liked to relax on.

A True Bone of Contention

The issue of who is supposed to get the dog (or the cat) often becomes a true bone of contention. People tend to love their pets and treat them as family members, so they frequently fight fiercely for the custody of the dog.

Pet owners consider their four-legged friends to be irreplaceable and priceless, almost like their children. It happens that couples agree to share the custody of the dog in accordance with a fixed schedule before even divorce is started at the court.

However, if there is no such agreement, it will be the judge who makes a decision on who the dog will stay with.

How the Judge May Decide

Divorce dog custody scales of justiceHow judges may decide the fate of the family dog

Sometimes, the judge will try to check who the pet is more attached to. For example, there was a case when they told the court marshal to take the dog of the divorcing couple to a park and observe who will the animal run to.

Both owners were forbidden to have any treats in the pockets or call the dog’s name - it would be comparable to bribing a witness or tampering with evidence.

Apart from that, in some courts, the value of the relation between a child and a pet is taken into consideration. In order to preserve the bond, the custody schedule of the dog may be the same as of the youngster.

Also, the pet can be assigned to the parent who won the majority of the parenting time. However, when there are no kids, there is a chance that the judge will simply order the divorcing couple to sell the dog or have one ex-partner buy it from the other.

Animal Rights Activist Fight to Change the Law

It is worth knowing that animal rights organizations are fighting for changes in the law. They want the courts to perceive pets as sentient beings, not as property (therefore, more like objects).

They claim that dogs and other pets should obtain certain rights of their own. They want not only the new laws recognizing animals as individuals to spread in other states apart from Alaska and Illinois.

Namely, they say that such changes can also be helpful in different interpretations, including agriculture, the entertainment industry, and veterinary malpractice cases.

Points to Consider While Developing a Plan

We have prepared a few points to take into account while developing a divorce plan for the family dog:

Divorce Dog Custody:  Who Gets the Dog

  • Who was the first owner of the dog? It may be a good idea to leave the dog with this ex-spouse who brought it to the marriage.

  • Which person travels more frequently, or have longer working hours?

  • Have you observed that the dog tends to favor one of the ex-partners? It can be a hard issue to confront, but keep in mind that it is for your dog’s sake. As tough as it is, you need to realize if the pet is more bonded with one of the divorcing spouses. However, keep in mind that this is worst-case-scenario planning.

  • Take into consideration the probability of re-marriages, children, new pets, etc. It is understandable that you will not predict everything that can happen, but making at least a general plan for the lifespan of your pet may make it less difficult to face new challenges when they appear.

  • If you own more than one family pet, a split may be a good solution to consider. Maybe one of the dogs favors you, and the other prefers your ex-spouse? In that case, it could be reasonable for each of you to take one pet.

Summary:  Divorce Dog Custody

Overall, it is advisable to think about the well-being of your dog first. Try to reach an agreement with your ex-partner outside the court - talk to them and take into consideration all the pros and cons.

If you are not able to find a solution on your own, the judge will have to decide what will happen to the dog.

Auhor Bio:  Divorce Dog Custody

Barbara Knightsbridge is a Content writer, linguist, bookworm and animal lover. The proud owner (or the subject) of a Miniature Poodle and a British Shorthair. Co-writer at Pet Food Reviews.

About Janice (author and voice behind this site)

Having lived with dogs and cats most of her life, Janice served as a veterinary technician for ten years in Maryland and twelve years as a Shih Tzu dog breeder in Ohio.

Her education includes undergraduate degrees in Psychology with a minor in biology, Early Childhood Education, and Nursing, and a master's in Mental Health Counseling.

She is a lifelong learner, a dog lover, and passionate about the welfare of animals. Her favorite breed for over 50 years has been the Shih Tzu, but she has also lived with Poodles, Maltese, Yorkshire Terriers, Beagles, English Bulldogs, Carin Terriers, and a Cocker Spaniel.

When not writing, reading, and researching dog-related topics, she likes to spend time with her eight Shih Tzu dogs, husband, and family, as well as knitting and crocheting. She is also the voice behind Miracle Shih Tzu and Smart-Knit-Crocheting

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