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Property division: Deciding who keeps the pets in a divorce

The majority of Maryland families and others around the country have pets in their homes, with dogs and cats topping the list of the most popular animals. Those pets are often considered to be members of the family by their owners. Unfortunately, the future of some pets may be uncertain when couples decide to get divorced while decisions about property division are made. Recently, some states have made some major changes in the way pet custody is determined in a divorce.

Traditionally, pets were viewed as property and were added to a list of belongings like household items or vehicles to be divided between the ex-spouses. However, this view is giving way to one where pet custody is handled more like child custody. The determination of who gets to keep a pet can be highly contested.

The court will review which party has trained the pet, taken it to appointments and provided the most care. Certainly, whether or not a pet was owned prior to a marriage will also be taken into account. If there are children in a relationship, a judge may also consider where they will primarily live while determining where the pet will reside. A decision will be made based on what is best for the animal.

Not every couple going through a divorce has pets; however, they will likely have amassed belongings together during their marriage. It would be helpful to have an experienced Maryland divorce attorney to help sort through all the issues surrounding property division. An experienced lawyer will work with clients to protect their interests, both now and in the future.

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