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Who gets the dog in a divorce?

Some immediate issues come to mind when thinking about divorce, such as finding a way to divide marital property and resolving child custody disputes. Another issue that is equally important for many people is determining who gets the couple’s dog.

Ohio law considers dogs as personal property, despite the emotional attachment felt by the owners to the dog. Therefore, the next question to ask is, was the dog acquired by one spouse before the marriage, or was the dog acquired during the marriage? If before the marriage, the dog would likely be considered the separate property of the spouse who acquired it. If during the marriage, then a further analysis would be needed, as the dog might be considered marital property.

Ohio trial courts have broad discretion in awarding and dividing personal marital property. In one case, Green v. Shall, the court considered who was the legal owner of the couple’s dogs. The court in that case awarded ownership of the dog to the spouse who trained the dog and was primarily responsible for all of the dog’s expenses.

In general, the court may consider who took primary responsibility for the pet’s daily needs, who took the pet to the veterinarian, and whether either spouse has abused or neglected the pet in the past.

It’s also possible to reach an agreement between spouses on shared time with the dog, based upon a schedule that looks like a custody schedule for children. This frequently occurs when both spouses have developed a long-standing emotional attachment to the dog.

If you have any questions about divorce and division of property, please contact Gertz Law Firm at (513) 583-1549.

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