Who Keeps the Dog in a Maryland Divorce?
Your pets are beloved members of the family. In a divorce, when partners are going from one household into two, there is a question as to who will take custody of the pets. Here are some important considerations.
Pets are Property
Under Maryland law, pets are considered property, in the same category as a piece of furniture or vehicle. If your pet was owned prior to the marriage, then the pre-marital owner will retain the pet in the divorce. If a pet was acquired during the marriage, then it is marital property, which is subject to equitable distribution in Maryland. Equitable distribution means that property is allocated fairly, depending on several facts and circumstances that the Court must consider.
Negotiate Between Yourselves
It is always preferable to come to an agreement on their own over who gets to keep the pet. In a Marital Settlement Agreement, ex-spouses can work out pet access, payment of pet-related expenses including medical bills, food, training, and boarding.
Child Custody Plays a Role
In some cases, the parents can agree, or a Judge may order, that the pet remains with whichever spouse has primary custody of the children. The presence of a beloved pet can help children deal with the transition from living with both parents to only one. In a joint custody arrangement, parents may agree that the pet follows the children from house to house.
What to Bring to the Table
If you cannot come to an agreement regarding ownership of your pet, then you should be prepared to show the Court why your pet should remain with you. Some documentation that may be helpful is:
An adoption certificate with your name on it
Veterinary bills paid in your name
Receipts from a pet store/groomer/training course paid in your name
Proof that you will be able to provide a good home for your pet following your separation
Proof that you can grant your pet more of your time and attention than your ex-partner following your divorce
We understand that deciding where your pet should reside after divorce can be a difficult and emotional decision. If you have questions about pets or marital property, please contact Laurie Wasserman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 410-842-1070. The legal team at the Law Office of Laurie M. Wasserman is here to help guide and advocate for you.
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