By: Amanda Vann, Esq.
A pet is a part of a family, whether it is just you and your spouse, or you also have kids. When going through a separation or divorce, you have to also address where your pet will go. In Maryland, a pet is considered property, which means that you and your spouse need to decide who will own the pet after you separate and divorce. Spouses can always reach an agreement regarding their pet. Some people agree on one spouse taking the pet, others decide to share the pet. There are possible solutions if you are going to reach an agreement.
However, if you can’t come to an agreement regarding the pet, then you must seek relief from a court. Some things that a court would consider when deciding where a pet will go includes:
- Which spouse has been the primary caregiver of the pet (meaning who has been taking the pet to their vet visits)
- Who has purchased their food
- Who handles their grooming and care
Veterinarian records, store receipts (or credit card purchase statements), and even statements by neighbors can be used as evidence to assist the court in determining the primary caregiver.
A court can also consider which spouse would be better suited to care for the pet moving forward. This means that the court can consider work hours and travel plans. Evidence such as having a pet walker or pet sitter can be useful or showing kennel/ boarding costs is important to show both the frequency of the care, as well as the fact that the pet is being properly cared for even when you are not able to do so yourself.
Lastly, if you have children, oftentimes the court will look at the custody schedule to determine pet ownership. If your children have an attachment to the pet, it may make the most sense that your pet stay with your children and make the transition of divorce easier on their children, as it is difficult enough for them to adjust to two households, let alone feeling like they have lost their pet.
If you are going through a divorce in Maryland and have questions regarding pet ownership or a pet custody plan, please contact me.
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