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The dog days of divorce: Maryland pet custody issues

For some Maryland couples, the majority of divorce negotiations will center around the division of marital property. The manner in which assets are divided is of great import, and the eventual outcome can have serious ramifications for years to come. However, other spouses focus on divorce matters that lie closer to the heart, such as the future care and custody of their beloved pets.

Pet custody is not a matter that the law has embraced, and the chances of finding a judge who will guide the process are uncertain. In some cases, family court judges refuse to treat pets any differently than items of marital property, and will simply settle the matter in the same manner as a vehicle or piece of furniture. However, if both spouses are willing to set aside their own interests and consider the needs of the pets, there are ways to find a resolution to the matter that works for all involved.  

While it may sound like a stretch, some couples have found success in creating a system of pet custody. Much like sharing custody of a child, these spouses are able to devise a system by which they share time with the pet. In addition, veterinary expenses, feeding and other needs are divided between the former spouses. However, this approach requires a high level of cooperation, which is not always possible during and after a divorce.

When considering matters involving pet custody, it is important to fully understand one's rights under the law. A divorce attorney can advise on how the local courts handle these issues, and can help guide one through the process of negotiating for the custody of a much-loved pet. In the end, litigation may be the only way to reach a resolution, and it is important to structure a compelling argument to present to a Maryland judge.

Source:, "Divorce & Pet Custody: How Does it Work?" Heather Brennan, July 2, 2013

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