Pets and Divorce: Who Keeps the Dog?

What happens to your pets in a divorce? This is a question that many couples may ask as they go through a separation or divorce. Often times, each party wants to keep the pet, which causes conflict to arise.

As the law stands right now, the court will not make a decision as to which person should be able to keep the family pet, however, this may change. House Bill 749 has passed in the House and will be going to the Senate. The bill would allow a family judge to grant custody of pets.

The Family Law Article of the Maryland Code defines “family use personal property”. It includes furniture, motor vehicles, furnishings, and household appliances. Md. Code, Family Law §8-201. However, the bill would expand this definition to include pets.  The definition of “pet” under Maryland Law is not changing. A pet would still only include a “domesticated animal”, and it does not include any livestock. Family Law Md. Code 8-201.

This bill could be very important for those families who have pets that are a part of their family. As the legislative season continues, we will know more as to whether or not this bill will pass.