DIVORCE – WHO GETS THE DOGS?

By Friday, January 27, 2017 16 No tags Permalink

He walks through the door, looks at you and says he wants a divorce. Who get’s the dogs…

DIVORCE - WHO GETS THE DOGS?

Many couples view their pets as part of the family. They become our “babies” our “four legged kids” our “Boys.”

But believe it or not, when it comes to divorce, in the eyes of the law, pets are property. Similar to the house, the couch or the flat screen tv. #saywhat?

PROPERTY DISTRIBUTION –

That’s how the courts view the subject of pet custody in matters such as divorce.

It’s no secret how I feel about my Boys #todiefor

In MY mind, there would be no question as to where they would live after the divorce…

DIVORCE - WHO GETS THE DOGS?

But Doodle Dad also has a strong attachment. He’s been there from the very beginning and loves both Harley and Jaxson…

DIVORCE - WHO GETS THE DOGS?

The mere thought of having to go through something like this is troubling.

PETS IN DIVORCE –

According to a summary I found –

Whereas the laws are designed to protect the best interests of human children in divorce (allowing for shared custody, visitation, and alimony), the laws for pets are intended to benefit the owner instead.   Under the law, pets are considered to be personal property, capable of human ownership and control.   Courts working under that law only strictly have authority to award a pet to one owner or the other.   To grant shared custody or visitation of the couple’s pets would be exactly the same, in the eyes of the law, as having them trade their television back and forth from one week to the next. Source: Animal (Legal & Historical) Center

Don’t know about you, but if you ask me, Lee could have ALL the televisions, just give me the Boys!

Most recently some courts realize pets have become a large part of our lives forcing them to change their analysis and treat pets more like children. To date, this has primarily occurred with dogs.

Courts have started considering the “best interest of the pets” when determining who gets custody of them.

Some divorce cases include shared custody, visitation, and alimony payments to the owners. If the courts are not willing to do this, pet owners usually work out a contract between themselves instead.

 ALASKA BECOMES THE FIRST –

In January of this year Alaska became –

the first state requiring judges to consider animal welfare in cases where divorcing couples have a pet.

Thanks to an amendment added in October – effective January 17, 2017 a judge cannot regard a pet in a divorce case like furniture. He/she must take “the well-being of the animal” into consideration.

According to the Animal Legal Defense Fund, this well-being provision is “groundbreaking and unique.”

David Favre a Michigan State University law professor who specializes in animal law –

For the first time, a state has specifically said that a companion animal has visibility in a divorce proceeding beyond that of property — that the court may award custody on the basis of what is best for the dog, not the human owners.

The relationship with the animal is what’s important – so the property law analysis is really – a poor fit.

I like the fact that the Alaska bill ALSO allows courts to include pets in domestic violence protective orders. It now requires the owners of pets seized in cruelty or neglect cases to cover the cost of their shelter.

WHAT ABOUT MY STATE? –

After reading about Alaska, I decided to review the laws in South Carolina. Here’s what I found.

Once a judge determines that the Boys are “marital property”  he/she will consider such things as –

  • The value of the pet and the contribution of each spouse to that value –  value referring to monetary value, not sentimental value.  Like who initially paid for the pet, who paid for its care or training, and who spent the most time taking care of it.
  • Each spouse’s physical and emotional healthone spouse may be more physically capable than the other, or the pet may be particularly important to one spouse’s well being.
  • Child custody arrangements a judge may want to award the family pets to the spouse who has primary custody of the children.

So, I’m living in a state that considers the needs of the husband and wife, not the needs of the pet. #hummmmm

What about you? do you know the laws of your state?

I feel blessed and truly grateful that “divorce” is not on our radar. The Boys can continue to have the best – of the both of us – together…

DIVORCE - WHO GETS THE DOGS?

Don’t look back – you’re not going that way ❤️

Have a great weekend….

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16 Comments
  • Jan K
    January 27, 2017

    Very interesting! It seems like things are at least starting to progress in this area. My sister went through it, and they agreed on things without involving the courts. In the end their dog Bear stayed with her ex because he was staying in their house (it was his family home), and that seemed least disruptive for him. She still visited and took him for walks, but I know it was hard for her.
    Later her ex met someone else and wanted to move away before their house was sold. So my sister was able to move back into the house with Bear until it was sold, and she was there when he passed, which I’m so glad of for her.

    • Cathy Bennett
      January 28, 2017

      That is an incredible story Jan. Through it all, Bear had the best that they could give him. I hope more couples will work together for the good of the animal, be civil and not rely on the courts. I am intrigued with the various different rules from state to state. I hope your sister is doing well. Have a great weekend!

  • Mary Nielsen
    January 27, 2017

    If I was to judge I would say that in such unfortunate situations the custody of the dogs should be given to the parent who loves them the most. It would be best if both parties agreed who gets the dogs because it is the least painful option.

    However, if both parents love their dogs equally and can’t stand the thought of being separated from them, then the court should decide which side is best suited for the dogs good.

    But in such case, I think that the losing side should be allowed to see the dogs from time to time, unless there is a good reason for something like that not to be allowed.

    Divorce is a horrible thing to happen in any couple life but when it comes to it, it is better to do it than live a life which is a lie or deception. It is just that when it happens it is not only the couple that will feel it but the family and friends too.

    Not to mention immediate family like couples parents, children, and the dogs.

    Dogs can’t understand when two people separate because such things don’t happen in a dog world so it is very difficult for them to cope with the absence of one parent.

    • Cathy Bennett
      January 28, 2017

      Mary, I also would like to believe the pet would be more of a priority then parcel or property. I would like to think the individual who watches the other partner tend to the pets daily needs would relinquish his/her rights for the sake of the pet. You’re so right – when you state that divorce is a horrible thing, but if ti becomes a part of a pet family’s new normal, I pray more people make the pet’s well being a priority. Thanks for stopping by, I love your thought provoking comments. Have a wonderful weekend 🙂

  • Emma
    January 27, 2017

    Lucky for us, Mom is the only one who would want us, so it would not be an issue. We know for some it is a big deal and some kennels and daycare facilities won’t even release dogs to anyone but those listed on their records as sometimes a spouse will attempt to steal the dog by simply picking it up from the facility. Sad stuff.

    • Cathy Bennett
      February 1, 2017

      Yes, that’s pretty sad Emma. I think if Doodle Dad tried to take the Boys, he’d certainly bring them back after a few days #highmaintenance

  • Kimberly Gauthier
    January 27, 2017

    This sounds awful, but I checked into this a while ago when J and I were having issues and I thought we’d reached the end of our relationship. Actually, this was just common sense.

    I looked into the law and found that our state considers pets property and the person who pays for the pets is the person who owns the pets. I pay for their food, their pet insurance, their vet bills – everything. And I have a blog that documents my ownership. So should we go our separate ways, the dogs stay with me.

    I know that we’ll have a fight over Scout. Because of how much J loves Scout, I stuck with it and we worked our way through our problems and are in a much better place now. But if someone decides to lose his ever living mind, my babies are coming with me! 🙂

    • Cathy Bennett
      February 1, 2017

      Scout is like Jaxson, J may take her, but like Lee – they would return them after a few days. LOL These dogs are high maintenance. But I think everyone should check their laws – it’s a good thing to know.

  • Callie, Shadow, and Ducky's Mom
    January 27, 2017

    Sam & I have had our issues; but care of the dogs has always been on my shoulders. Still, neither of us considers divorce a real option – we will work things out because we love each other and the girls.

    • Cathy Bennett
      February 1, 2017

      That’s the same rule in our home. I’ve been blessed with a man who has the patience of JOB, he loves me unconditionally. spoils me rotten, and forgives me always. So we’re in it for the long run with the Boys!

  • Sand spring Chesapeakes
    January 27, 2017

    This was interesting, I don’t know what the wi laws are. I know I get gambler and the others I would fight for them.

    • Cathy Bennett
      February 1, 2017

      I’m sure it would never come to that, but I found it interesting looking into the difference of the various laws.

  • Monika & Sam
    January 29, 2017

    It’s encouraging to see state’s are becoming more enlightened on this topic. Let’s just hope all states consider what’s best for the dogs when setting up specific legislation covering this topic.
    P.S. So glad you’re not having to endure a ‘what if’ scenario.

  • Rebekah
    January 29, 2017

    I recently went through a split. He moved out. I bought the house and property from him. There was really no discussion at all about the dogs – I kept all three. If there had been, I would have been throwing vet bills, my blog, and my bank account statements showing I paid for everything in his face. But it was an amicable split, fortunately.

  • Cathy Armato
    February 4, 2017

    This is a fascinating post, Cathy! I always hated that the courts consider pets to be property, that is outrageous! Especially since there are clear linkages between domestic abuse and threats to pets (in order to “punish” or frighten & control the abused partner). Kudos to Alaska for being the first state to get a clue! I love this post and I’m sharing it widely. Thanks for writing this.
    Love & Biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

    • Cathy Bennett
      February 5, 2017

      Thanks Cathy – I too was surprised at how many states share the same law. My hope and prayer is similar to yours – the courts must revisit this law and amend it quickly. Our precious pets are nothing like our dining room table! Thanks for sharing – it means the world to us!

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