Who keeps the pet in a divorce?

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Who keeps the pet in a divorce?

While I was trying to sell my house I asked my ex-husband to take my children’s dog – temporarily. Now that I am moving out of my house with my children Itold him we could take the dog back. He refuses to give the dog back though because his new girlfriend (who he cheated on my with) has children who got attached to the dog. What are my rights?

Asked on August 10, 2011 New Jersey

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

If the dog had been yours prior to the marriage, then it should still be your dog. To oversimplify matters, spouses can exit marriage with the same property with which they entered it--its property acquired during marriage that's trickier.

If it was a jointly acquired or family owned dog acquired during marriage, then who gets it is subject to the divorce degree or separation agreement, and if they were  silent on the issue of the dog, that's something to now be addressed by negotiation or court order.

If, on the other hand, the dog was acquired by you after the divorce, then it is your property--plain and simple. He has no right to your property, and the fact that his new significant other's children are attached to it is of no relevance and legal effect whatsoever. You could try contacting the police, stating he has stolen your dog (which is true); if they refuse to get involved (which they might, feeling that despite the facts, it's really a domestic dispute), you could sue for its return. Again, if the dog was acquired by you after the marriage, he has no rights to it. Be prepared, however, that he may try to claim that you gifted or gave the dog to him; gather any evidence to the contrary.


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