Our pets are more like our kids than our property.
The law doesn’t see it that way.
The law sees your dog as property.
(And treats them as such.)
If you want to know the best way to keep your dog in a divorce, keep reading.
Divorce can be devastating. It’s heartbreaking when parents lose custody of their children. Spouses end up having to pay agonizing amounts of financial support.
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To know how to navigate dogs and divorce, we have to have a small understanding of the laws about dogs and divorce.
In 48 states, the law considers your dog a piece of property.
I know how you feel. I wouldn’t really consider our Frenchie our property. It’s more likely that we are his property.
But jokes aside, this means that the courts view your pets as items that you can sell during the property settlement phase of a divorce.
Imagine being forced to sell your dog and split the proceeds with your spouse.
The only states that do not view dogs as property is Alaska and Illinois.
As you can imagine, figuring out, in a divorce, who gets the dog is a very hot topic of debate.
Pet parents are fanatics (as they should be) and treat their pets like children.
I mean, I’d fight pretty hard to get my little buddy, Tater.
Sometimes, couples can agree on a custodial schedule for the dog before a divorce goes to court.
But if you and your spouse cannot come up with reasonable custody agreement for the dog, then you’re going to have to battle it out in court.
I’ll go ahead and tell you – you don’t want the decision of who gets the dog to go to court.
The judge has ZERO standard rules when it comes to who gets the dog in a divorce.
They can make the decision in ANY way that they want to.
To figure out who gets the dog in a divorce, we have had judges go out into the parking lot, place the two parents on either side of the parking lot, and release the dog from a cage in the middle of the parking lot.
Whoever the dog decides to run to first, gets the dog.
You’re leaving the decision of whether you EVER get to see your dog again in the hands of… the dog.
Dogs are somewhat smart, but that doesn’t mean you’re getting what you want.
When this happens, though, you’re not left empty-handed. Your spouse generally has to pay you about $500-$1,000 for the custody of the dog.
We have seen a schedule of trading the dog every 2 or 4 weeks work best.
This allows the dog to settle in at each home for a few weeks.
And it means that you’re not constantly uprooting the dog’s whole life every week.
So, make sure that you and your spouse come to SOME agreement and put it into the divorce papers to make sure that you both get fair custody of the dog.
Plus, this will allow you to have a much more affordable divorce.
When you’re filing for divorce with children, a lot of judges value the children more than the spouses during a divorce.
This goes hand in hand when figuring out who gets the dog in a divorce.
Either the courts will award custody to the parent who has the kids the most, or they will let the dog follow the kids.
This just means that if you trade custody with the kids every week, the dog will follow suite.
And if you don’t share custody of the kids, then one of you is not getting the dog after the divorce.
If you are getting a divorce while pregnant, you may be forced to wait until after the birth to make custody decisions and finalize the divorce.
But if there are no children, chances are the court will just order a divorcing couple to sell the dog or have one party buy it from the other.
This, a lot of times, is not what’s best for the dog.
But the divorce laws surrounding dogs and divorce tell the judge NOT to care.
As you can imagine, there are animal rights movements where they are trying to get the laws to view dogs as sentient individuals and not property.
This means that dogs would have their own rights.
This won’t only affect who gets the dog in a divorce, but it also means that dogs will have veterinary malpractice cases.
I’m going to go ahead and say that if my wife could represent dogs, it’s game over for you guys.
She’d shut down the family law division.
But there may be a new wrinkle.
Emotional support animals could be the mechanism that changes pets’ legal status.
If you need the dog for emotional support, you could get full custody of the dog.
But heed the warning.
If you get caught faking the emotional support in ANY way, then there’s a very high likelihood that you’re not going to get to keep the dog.
And your spouse will be rewarded custody.
This means that if you print off fake doctor’s notes or anything of the sort, you should reconsider this approach.
But if you REALLY do need the dog for emotional support, do this.
Get a note from your doctor AND your therapist.
(The more credibility you have, the better.)
Normally, it’s 100% your privacy as to what conditions the dog supports you for.
But if you’re fighting over custody, and there’s a chance you’ll never see your dog again, it might be a good idea to disclose how the dog helps you to the judge (and your divorce lawyer).
Just make sure that you dot your t’s and cross your i’s.
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