Although your pet is a living, breathing member of your family, in Maryland, pets are generally considered property rather than family members, which means they are subject to property division laws during a divorce. When it comes to determining the ownership and custody of pets, the court typically treats them in a similar manner as other marital assets.
This can be disappointing news to a pet owner who is in the midst of a divorce. However, if you and your spouse agree to share pet custody, Jacobson Family Law can prepare a Separation Agreement that includes detailed, agreeable terms regarding the ownership and care of their pets. They can include specific provisions in their separation agreement or divorce settlement that outline who will retain ownership and any visitation or custody arrangements for the pets.
If the couple cannot come to an agreement, the court will make a decision based on the principles of property division. Factors that may be considered include who primarily cared for the pet during the marriage, who has the financial ability to care for the pet, and what is in the best interest of the pet.
It is worth noting that Maryland does not have specific legislation addressing pet custody or visitation rights. Therefore, the court’s decision will primarily be based on the property division laws and the specific circumstances of the case.
For trickier situations, documentation will come in handy to prove that your pet is better off with you.
• Keep proof of ownership or adoption documentation handy to show that you are your pet’s registered owner.
• Vet receipts or other documentation showing that you were the one who took your pet to the vet all, or most of, the time.
• Pet store receipts that show you were the one who bought your pet’s food, toys, etc.
• Any evidence you can find that you were the one who took your pet to training classes, puppy playtime, etc.
• Pictures of you and your pet together.
• Where the kids are going to live and their attachment to the pet.
• Evidence that you will be able to provide a home for your pet after your divorce (if you rent an apartment, you may need to prove that your lease allows pets).
• Evidence that your work schedule provides you with enough time to care for your pet.
It is advisable for couples going through a divorce to consult with their attorneys and try to negotiate a mutually satisfactory arrangement regarding their pets. Mediation or alternative dispute resolution methods can also be helpful in resolving pet-related issues amicably.
Losing your pet in a divorce can be heartbreaking. If you are going through a separation or divorce and have questions regarding pet ownership or pet custody, contact Jacobson Family Law at 443-741-1147 or Schedule an Appointment.