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Vikki on Pet Custody

When divorcing, who gets the dog(s)? Vikki explains the laws.

By Vikki Ziegler

If you love your pet as much as I do, you can certainly understand Krissy and Tina's love for their two dogs and the fact that neither of them wanted to part with living with their big, adorable pooches. In fact, conflicts over pets can be just as important to divorcing spouses as any issue when both spouses have developed a special connection to a furry friend that they love and care for day-in and day-out. This feeling can be even greater when the couple has no children and the animal has taken on the role of the couple's "child." But unlike real children, for which extensive case law exists, pets have been largely ignored as a serious concern in a divorce. However, it has becoming more popular for couples to try to figure out a way to set up a visitation schedule just as if the parties had a child that needed a set schedule to see both parents. People even get as detailed as figuring out who will take the pet to the vet for the routine visits, what the animal will eat when with the other litigant and even an alternating holiday schedule and dog park exercise routine.

The long-standing rule courts adhere to is to treat a pet as a piece of personal property and assign ownership rights in accordance with the marital laws governing property in a given state. However, I think the courts are moving in a different direction due to the large disputes people have over their beloved pets. Further, nothing can replace the same companionship and intangible positive qualities that a pet can give litigants living in the same house. This disconnect has resulted in conflicting treatment of pets in divorce cases, but the overall attitude is the best interest of the pet. Where will the animal flourish? Who is home more often than the other to care for the animal's needs?

These are the factors I took into consideration by suggesting that Krissy keep Suka and Tina keep Dexter. I thought it was crucial for the dogs to see each other regularly and both ladies agreed. I have confidence that they were going to maintain a bond between the dogs and themselves (as they prove in the clip below), and I felt confident in my recommendation with respect to these furry friends.

I generally don't like recommending animals to be split it up from one home to two but this case, I believe, warranted that solution.


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