Avoiding Legal Trouble

Finalizing The Divorce: Can You Still Get Custody If You Are Not The Registered Owner?

More and more American households own at least one pet. Dogs, especially, are quite popular, with a population of 78 million living in American households in 2012. Most people consider their dogs as family members, and it's difficult for couples to come to an agreement during a divorce regarding who gets the dog.  Depending on whom the dog is licensed to, circumstances change. Speak to a divorce attorney if you have any questions.

When the Dog Is Registered to One Person Only

Dogs are technically considered as property in the eyes of the law. As a result, if the family dog is only registered under one person, then the courts generally favor awarding custody to the registered owner. This is because the registered owner is lawfully seen as the person responsible for the animal.

Making a Case with Your Local Divorce Attorney

If you've bonded with the dog over the years, all hope is not lost even if you are not the registered owner. If you have made equal or more contributions to the care of the dog, you may still have a fighting chance in court. This is because many courts are now recognizing the fact that one's relationship with a dog is much different than one's relationship with a material object. Many courts now take into account the dog's best interest when awarding custody.

If you are not the registered owner, you will need a divorce attorney to build a strong case regarding the contributions you've made to the dog's quality of living. You will be responsible for providing proof of your activity in the dog's life. Most courts will take into consideration whether or not you have:

  • Paid for vet expenses. This includes regular vaccinations and the cost of emergency visits.
  • Spent a considerable amount of time with the dog during the marriage. Keep a detailed record regarding when you normally take the dog out for a walk or to a dog park.
  • Decided to stay in the marital home. Much like human beings, dogs can get stressed out easily. It's best to keep their environment and daily routines the same.

After taking all factors into account, the court may award you split custody or visitation rights to the dog.

Finalizing a divorce becomes a lot more complicated when there are pets and children involved. Many judges and courts understand the emotional bond that grows between people and dogs and will award custody to both you and your spouse as they see fit. Still, you should speak with a divorce attorney from a law firm like Madison Law Firm PLLC to determine how you can strengthen your case, whether that's to gain custody of a beloved pet or another asset.