Maryland Judge Awards Couple Joint Legal Custody Of Lucky The Dog

April 12, 2012 | Category: Property Division

Michelle Lore, a contributing author to the Minnesota Lawyer Blog recently authored a post about the custody decision in Maryland involving…a dog. She reports:

A judge in Maryland recently decided a custody battle with a twist — it was over a beloved pet.

A childless couple heading for a divorce could not agree on who would have the right to keep Lucky, their 16-pound Lhasa apso.

Maryland treats pets as jointly owned marital property that must be sold if the divorcing couple can’t agree on who gets to keep them. The parties split the proceeds of the sale.

But retired Prince George’s County Circuit Judge Graydon S. McKee III, a dog owner himself, didn’t like that solution so he fashioned his own. After hearing testimony from both parties — Gayle, who lives in Alexandria, Va., and Craig, who resides in Dunkirk, Md. — McKee decided that the couple would split custody. Lucky will alternate homes every six months.


Comments seem to make great reading. No exception here. Law Lacky said, “That is nothing. I worked on a divorce case a decade ago that involved ferrets. The divorce decree included weekly visitations and “ferret support.”

In Minnesota, pets are viewed as property, with no clear answer on how to “divide” them.

Minnesota attorney Barbara Gislason, a nationally recognized animal rights lawyer has this to say about pets and custody:


It is an interesting phenomenon that they seem almost invisible in Family Law. Because about 2/3 of households have pets and spend in excess of 40 billion per year on them, and a majority of owners consider animals to be family members, should this continue?


Barbara’s position seems to make sense. I can’t imagine it would take the legislature more than a few minutes to adopt a quick set of standards for the court to consider, including who has been the primarily caretaker of the animal.

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