Who gets dog custody in divorce?

adorable dog - Law Office of Shelly Ingram

“Dogs are the leaders of the planet. If you see two life forms, one of them's making a poop, the other one's carrying it for him, who would you assume is in charge.”
― Jerry Seinfeld

Dogs may be the leaders of the planet, but not when it comes to divorce in Maryland. If you are considering separation or divorce, you may have a number of questions, including: who gets dog custody? In Maryland courts, dogs are routinely treated as personal property. Meaning, if Fido was acquired by a couple during the marriage, not by inheritance, gift from a third-party, excluded by valid-agreement, or directly traceable to one of those sources, then Fido is considered marital property.

Marital property is subject to equitable division under Maryland law, but is there really any way to “equitably” divide a dog?

So, how do Maryland courts decide about dog custody in divorce? In extremely rare cases, the Court may decide who gets to keep certain marital property, in this case “Fido,” and who gets a monetary award for his or her interest in the property. Courts in Maryland must be able to assign an actual dollar value to your dog in order to make this type of marital property decision, which makes it is easy to understand why this almost never happens. In most cases, when Maryland families are unable to reach an agreement on the specific division of personal property acquired during marriage, the Court will order that the property be sold – this includes our faithful, four-legged family members.

At the Law Office of Shelly M. Ingram, LLC, we strive to help clients reach creative solutions to divorce and family law concerns, including the division of marital property. We encourage our clients to explore out-of-court options, including negotiation, mediation, and collaborative law, when possible, because these options give you control and customization to decide what is best for you and your dog.

For answers to other frequently asked family law questions, feel free to explore our FAQs on Marital Property and Divorce.