Your dog probably feels more like a member of your family than a companion animal. After all, your pup is full of life, personality and energy. According to the American Humane Society, owning a pet is also likely to improve your physical and mental health. If you acquired your dog during your marriage, though, you probably have to address its future ownership during your divorce.
Unlike some other states, Maryland law applies principles of equity when dividing marital assets during divorce. This means that even though you may not receive exactly half of your marital estate, you should end up with a fair or reasonable share.
Your dog is a piece of property
Despite being a living, breathing and active animal, your dog is no different from furniture, your car or even your house. Under Maryland law, the pooch is a piece of property that is subject to division during divorce proceedings. You obviously cannot split the animal into two equal parts, though.
Provided your dog is marital property instead of separate property, you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse have an option of negotiating its ownership. If you can come up with an acceptable agreement, a judge is likely to honor it.
The law may be changing
Because dogs are alive, some family courts have started to change their approach to them. Specifically, courts may be amenable to entertaining custody arrangements in lieu of assigning ownership to one spouse or the other.
Not unlike child custody agreements, these arrangements set visitation schedules and outline each person’s dog-related obligations and rights. Ultimately, if your husband or wife loves your dog as much as you do, it may be worthwhile to try to come up with a custody agreement for the animal.