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Property division case goes to the dogs - no joint custody

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When Maryland couples divorce, they typically fight over assets such as bank accounts, homes, vehicles and expensive artwork. However, more and more divorces are involving pets, which tend to be treated as property under state laws, despite being treated as members of the family in many households. One recent property division case involving a dog resulted in sole custody for the ex-husband, a veterinarian.

When a couple in another state divorced, they fought over their German wirehaired pointer. Specifically, like many ex-partners, they argued over who would keep the dog. Since the 11-year-old canine is considered property and not a child, the court does not legally have to enforce joint custody. It could only be given to one party. Therefore, the court was within its rights to rule in favor of the ex-husband instead of attempting to put together some sort of shared arrangement.

The ex-husband took the dog to work with him every day and therefore the dog was accustomed to this routine. While the ex-wife treated the dog well, she the court decided the ex-husband took a less indulgent approach to dog ownership. Therefore, the court decided that the dog would be better off with the man who treated the pet like the dog that it is.

Although a pet is usually not considered an asset along the lines of a car or a home, dogs, cats and other animals have a sentimental value. To many people, pets are children and it can be devastating when a party does not get custody of the pet after a breakup. Even though a dispute over pet ownership may seem trivial to many judges, these types of cases seem poised to increase in coming years. People spend a lot of time and money on their pets nowadays, and they want to make sure their pooch or kitty is given the best life possible, both during and after divorce.

Source: News & Record, "After divorce, court won't allow joint dog custody," May 20, 2014

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