If you consider your dog to be a member of your family, you are not alone. An astounding 95% of pet owners consider their pets to be family members. You may even purchase birthday presents or cook special food for your dog. So, what happens to your furry friend when you get a divorce?
You may wonder whether pet custody exists. However, Georgia law treats pets as property rather than family members.
Property division laws regarding pets
Georgia has equitable distribution laws, meaning courts aim to divide marital property in a fair manner. It is important to know that equitable does not necessarily mean equal, so you may end up with an outcome that is not split down the middle. The court will award your pet to the spouse in a way that seems fair when considering a variety of factors.
Marital vs. separate property
First, the court needs to determine whether your dog is actually subject to property division. To be considered during the distribution process, your dog must be considered marital property. This means you must have acquired your dog during the marriage. If you obtained the dog before the marriage, or received it as a gift or inheritance during the marriage, it is not subject to distribution. Having documentation of when you got the pet can help in this case.
Relationship with the pet
If your dog is marital property, the court will strongly consider the relationship you and your spouse have with him or her. Some questions the court may ask include:
- Who is responsible for veterinarian bills?
- Who feeds and plays with the dog more?
- Who spends more time with the dog?
- Has anyone been neglectful or abusive of the dog?
It is vital for you to gather documentation, pictures and witness testimony if you want to prove you deserve ownership of your dog.