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Is shared pet custody a reasonable goal in a Maryland divorce?

On Behalf of | May 29, 2024 | Divorce |

People preparing for divorce in Maryland often worry about how ending a marriage could affect their daily lives. Often, the biggest concerns people have about divorce are about the financial implications of dividing their property. However, other people worry about their family relationships.

In cases where people share children, arranging to share custody of those children can be the most difficult element of the divorce process. For some families, there is another relationship that could be at risk during divorce. Specifically, people may worry about losing contact with a pet.

Cats, dogs and other companion animals can be an important part of someone’s life. Can someone preparing for divorce in Maryland ask to share custody of their pet with their spouse?

Maryland judges don’t divide pet custody

Sharing pet custody can seem like a reasonable expectation if both spouses have a strong attachment to the pet they have raised together. After all, the pet may feel like just another member of the family. Sadly, those who hope to have a judge split custody of a pet could wind up disappointed.

A family law judge does not view a pet as a family member in need of a custody order. Instead, companion animals are part of the marital estate. They are property that has a set value. Judges address them as they would any other asset. They award the pet to one spouse or the other and use their financial value to balance other decisions about property division.

Spouses can establish their own arrangements

While those pursuing litigated or contested divorces cannot ask a judge to divide pet custody, some people make their own arrangements. Uncontested divorces can include the terms that the spouses feel are appropriate, possibly including arrangements for their pets.

People can also make informal arrangements where the pet might stay with one spouse most of the time but the other when they vacation or need someone to watch the animal. They may not be able to enforce those arrangements later if their spouse does not allow them to see their shared pet. In many cases, people preparing for divorce with a pet need to think carefully about whether they can meet the animal’s needs without the support of a spouse.

Identifying issues that can become emotional and contentious can help people prepare appropriately for upcoming divorce proceedings. Having realistic expectations about access to a pet can minimize the frustration and disappointment possible in a Maryland divorce.

Terenzini & Lucero, LLC.

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