When it Comes to the Divorce, Who Gets Fido?
In almost all states, dogs are considered personal property, like a car, even though you may see them as family. Deciding who gets to keep the dog in the divorce may be hostile and painful, but it is still preferable to reach a decision with your spouse is possible.
Usually, the decision works like this: if the dog was owned by one person before the marriage, it is considered that person’s separate property, just like any assets owned before the marriage. It doesn’t matter if the other spouse has become attached to the dog; the dog reverts to the original owner. This is not a hard and fast rule, but generally the analysis.
When considering a dog obtained by both spouses during a marriage, the breakdown is more complicated, and may depend on reasons such as who was the primary caretaker of the dog, and who was awarded custody of a child or children (dogs often go with the children, with the exception of the above instance where the dog is owned before the marriage).
Giving Dogs Their Due
Although it is not legally demanded, the dog’s preference of human should be taken into consideration, too. Without legal precedence, doing so is not required; but since so many consider dogs part of their family, allowing the dog to have some “say” in the matter might be the best thing for it, for it too will have to deal with the emotional difficulties that come with a divorce.
Dogs and the Law
No matter who gets custody of the dog, it is considered personal property, so visitation rights are not usually awarded, and the best interests of the dog are not legally applicable. However, to avoid pain and anger, it would be good to work with your spouse to allow visitation if desired and, as mentioned above, consider the needs of the dog.
This may be changing soon, as states consider the needs of the animal as well as the people. Pets Are Becoming People, Legally Speaking is an excellent article which to read to explore this further.