Divorce Settlements: Who Gets Custody of the Pet?

By Nancy Bickford

Certified Family Law Specialist in San Diego


Two years ago, Shannon Louise Travis bought mini dachshund Joey as a 10-week-old puppy from a pet store and gave him to her then-girlfriend, Tricia Bridget Murray, as a gift. Now, after one year of marriage Travis and Murray are getting a divorce. According to the New York Post, Joey is about to go through a custody battle in what will be New York’s first matrimonial pet-custody case.

Judge Cooper, the judge who will be presiding over the divorce case, owns a 12-year-old rescued pit bull himself. He refuses to treat Joey like a piece of property and will schedule a hearing to resolve the custody battle. He intends to ask questions similar to those asked during child custody trials, such as which of Joey’s “mothers” spent more time with Joey.

In Alabama, pet custody cases have already occurred. An Alabama judge made a pet custody decision by taking the pet’s “best interests” into consideration – a standard normally applied to child custody issues. Kansas state courts, on the other hand, have refused to get involved with pet custody cases.

Pet Custody in San Diego Divorces

Pets are still considered property in the state of California.  However, courts are increasingly recognizing that, as Judge Cooper says, “dogs play an ever more important role in our lives.”

If you and your ex cannot agree on shared pet custody terms and have resolved to take it to court, here are some tips:

  • Since pets are property, find proof of adoption or purchase.
  • If you did not adopt or purchase the pet, try to establish yourself as the primary caregiver. Locate veterinarian, grooming, training, and food receipts. Also, ask neighbors to attest to the fact that you were mainly the one who walked the dog.
  • Be properly represented. Because there are no laws in place as of yet to determine pet custody, it can be risky taking it to court. Hiring an experienced divorce attorney can bolster your chances. Attorneys can also help with mediation and arbitration.

I can counsel you regarding your rights and present your case to the court.  It is important to note that I cannot request a temporary pet custody plan during the pendency of your divorce and will have to address that issue along with all other property matters upon completion of your divorce. If you are going through a divorce and are worried about maintaining custody of your pet, find me at http://www.bickfordlaw.com/, in the blogosphere at http://www.sandiegodivorceattorneysblog.com or even the old-fashioned way — by phone — at 858-793-8884.

Related posts:

  1. Report: Ashton Kutcher, Demi Moore Settle Divorce Following Two-Year Stall Over Money
  2. The Khloe Kardashian Divorce: On Overcoming Fear During Separation
  3. Pair in custody after I-5 chase
  4. Dumanis doesn’t explain judge boycott
  5. Suicidal woman in custody after I-5 closure

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Posted by Social Media Staff on Dec 25, 2013. Filed under Columns, Nancy Bickford, Sponsored Columns. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

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