In the U.S., 40-50% of marriages end in divorce. These splits are complicated legal battles in which both parties have to divide up their shared property. When couples split, a custody battle ensues if they have children together.
So what happens when there are pets involved?? Does Partner #1 get the dog Monday-Thursday and Partner #2 gets the dog Friday-Sunday? Should one person get sole custody? Is it fairer to give the dog to a relative? Breakups are hard period. But When a dog is involved it can be even more difficult.
Read also: “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Owning a Dog“
Pets are considered personal property that should be assigned to one party or the other under the law. As we progress, the rulings on pets have become much less cut and dry. Some courts are strict about one partner receiving full custody while other courts allow divorcing couple to present custody plans that would be in the best interest of the animal. Because dogs are property, they can even be included in prenuptial agreements!
To put it simply: YES, pets are considered property BUT you can negotiate a legally binding custody agreement.
Every case is different. Some couples that split up figure out dog custody by determining the purchaser. Because pets count as property, if one party can prove that they purchased the animal before the marriage or used their own money to buy the pet, that person will have a better argument for full custody. Cases like this can get sticky. If partner #1 owned the dog before the marriage but partner #2 was the primary caretaker during the marriage and paid for food/bet bills/other expenses, partner #1 may have to reimburse partner #2 in order to gain sole custody. During the actual divorce process, whichever spouse keeps the dog with them is another way to prove that that spouse is the primary caretaker.
Dogs thrive on consistency so split custody is not exactly ideal. Take into consideration which partner is moving out. If one person will be living in the same house that the dog was raised, that may be the best place for the dog to stay. Moving can be very stressful on your pup! When some couples split, if they end on decent terms, they give one partner sole custody and grant the other partner visitation rights.
We think the number one concern for a dog’s fate in a divorce is keeping the pet’s best interest in mind. Partner #1 may feel like they deserve the dog the most but if they are never home, travel often, or generally do not have the time to give their pup adequate attention then they really shouldn’t have custody. If there’s more than one pet and they have a close bond it can be selfish to split up the furry friends between divorcing spouses. If there are any people out there considering split custody, definitely keep in mind how important it will be to communicate with your ex partner on doggy parenting!
What do you guys think of puppy custody battles? If any of you have experience, we would love to hear your stories!