Legal Blog

Divorce and Your Pet

She is your emotional support.  She is always happy to see you when you get home.  She brightens your day.  Is this your soon to be ex-spouse?  No, I’m talking about your cherished pet.  What happens to a pet during a divorce?

Unless there is a domestic violence claim, there is nothing in Maryland in the Family Law Article of the Maryland Code that allows for the court to award custody of a pet to either party.  So even though you are thankful that your case does not involve domestic violence, you know that losing your pet will be devastating.  How can you make sure that doesn’t happen?

As with most things in family law, the best way to guarantee the outcome is to come to a written agreement with your spouse that allows you to keep your pet.  If you are both attached to the pet, the agreement can provide for time for both of you with the pet.  This may sound silly, but I have written many agreements that have clauses dealing with pets.  The agreement should also address who is responsible for expenses for the pet, including food, veterinary care, and boarding.  I have also written many agreements where a pet travels with the children between homes.  A pet can also be a valuable emotional support for a child transitioning to a new family environment.

If parties in a divorce case cannot agree on the division of personal property, the court most often will order it sold.  If you are unable to agree with your spouse about your pet, it is possible that the court would view it as personal property and order the pet sold.  It is also possible that the court may award the pet to one party or provide for access, under the court’s equitable powers, but that is not a certainty.

Your best bet is to come to a written agreement with your spouse about your pet.  As with anything that is valuable to you, you may have to compromise on another term that is not as valuable.  In order to assess the relative value of the interests that you possess in a divorce and the potential outcomes, it is wise to speak with an attorney.



Please contact Catherine H. “Kate” McQueen to discuss your family law issues in Maryland at (240) 507-1718 or


ABOUT KATE MCQUEEN | 240-507-1718

Catherine H. “Kate” McQueen is a family lawyer and principal in Offit Kurman’s Bethesda office and is licensed to practice in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. Ms. McQueen focuses her practice on the many legal issues that impact families, including all the issues arising out of a divorce, such as custody, child support, alimony, and other financial and property issues. She also has extensive experience in guardianship matters for children and incapacitated adults, including assisting clients in petitioning for guardianship, serving as court-appointed counsel for alleged disabled persons, and serving as court-appointed guardian for individuals when their family members or friends are unwilling or unable to do so.






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