But Who Gets The Dog?
I recently had a client walk into an initial consult and tell me she was willing to give her soon-to-be-ex everything he wanted as long as she got custody of their fur-baby. The fur-baby in question was a beautiful 70 pound Goldendoodle she and her husband had adopted several years ago, during happier times. She was absolutely shocked when I explained to her that Maryland courts don’t grant custody of pets – and she’s not the first client I’ve had that conversation with.
It’s true. While America is moving in a direction where more couples are choosing to forego having children and opting to have just have pets, Maryland courts still view your beloved pet as property. Whereas with children a judge is going to consider a plethora of factors such as the child’s age, who the primary caregiver was, the parent’s job schedules, and fitness of the parents, to name just a few, in determining what schedule is in the best interest of your child, the same is not true for your pet. Your pet is considered a part of your property, like your car or your dining room table. If necessary, the judge will assign a value to the pet and consider it in the division of property. It’s not that judges are heartless; in fact many of them have pets and consider them family, but they are required to follow the law and sometimes the law takes time to catch up.
So what do you do with your fur-baby when you’re separating? The experienced attorneys (and pet lovers) at Weinberg & Schwartz, LLC can help you negotiate regarding your pet. The advantage of having an experienced attorney in your corner is we have the ability to be creative and come up with out of the box solutions. We have drafted actual custody arrangements for dogs, negotiated pet-sitting provisions for traveling spouses, and devised orders to protect our client’s ownership of their pets. We can help you come up with something that works for you, and your pet, that the court could not otherwise order at trial.
If you are separating and have a pet that was purchased or adopted during your marriage, contact us to set up a consult and we will be happy to go over your options and help you protect what matters most to you.