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When getting a divorce, who keeps the pet?

Numerous divorcing couples across the country, including many residing in Maryland, have pets to consider. While there are those who can easily determine which spouse will get to keep the pet, there are others who view pets as though they were children. Determining child custody during divorce can be rather contentious, but how is pet custody handled during the divorce process?

Believe it or not, pets are considered property in a divorce proceeding. If one spouse owned the pet before marriage, he or she will get to keep the animal, if desired, as it will be considered personal property. Alternatively, an animal that is acquired during a marriage will be considered marital property, and a decision will have to be made regarding who gets to keep the pet when all is said and done.

When both parties desire access to a pet, an out-of-court custody arrangement may be made. This means that, while the court may grant the animal to one spouse as part of the divorce settlement, through negotiations, both parties can work out a pet-sharing schedule that works for them. This is an arrangement that both parties can seek legal assistance in creating in order to make sure that the terms are fair for both of the owners and the pet.

Pets are more than just animals to many owners, they are members of the family. Deciding where to place a pet when getting a divorce can certainly be a tough call. Though difficult sometimes, with help, divorcing couples in Maryland can make the best animal custody decisions for themselves, their families and their pets

Source:, "Divorce can unleash pet custody battles", Ben Steverman, May 15, 2016

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