…………… by ric justiss
We had a guest visiting this past weekend. Our friend
Jill was visiting. She now lives in Seattle. She is a
long time friend of Michelle's, was one of the
bridesmaids at our wedding and a really cool
person...we like her. She was here to attend court
for the final decree of divorce hearing, in Collin
county. She left her husband a year ago. He first
moved out, and then after he had been out for some time, she moved to Seattle.
They had each taken their own stuff, and each were happy with the way things
were divided up. But then, all of a sudden out of nowhere, he decided to contest
custody of the dog. So, they had this big hearing before the judge about who
should get the dog. When he moved out he did not take the dog. And it was her
dog anyway. She picked it out, she bought it with money given as a gift from her
Aunt, and she took care of it. She couldn't believe she had to fly in to fight this. The
husband had a lawyer, and she did not. She represented herself. Michelle went
with her to court Monday morning. She had prepared all these questions to ask
him on the stand, she was well prepared, and did a great job of pointing out to the
court how she had bought the dog and cared for the dog, and loved the dog...while
also pointing out what a loser he was, with no job, and a recent DWI resulting in
loss of this driver's license. The judge awarded the dog to her.
Who gets the family pet following a divorce? In most cases, pets are treated just
like all other marital property because pets are considered personal property under
state property laws. However, this traditional view is beginning to be challenged.
Lawsuits are being filed challenging the longstanding view of the treatment of pets
in divorce proceedings. Often, the spouse who did not receive the family pet as part
of the divorce settlement, is seeking "visitation" or "custody" rights.
There is essentially no difference between a piece of furniture and a dog. It's really
up to a judge's discretion to determine how the dog situation will be handled. Some
judges refuse to hear animal custody cases, leaving it to the couple to work out an
agreement. However, more states are adopting language that refers to people as
dogs' "guardians" rather than "owners" elevating the status of dog. The
guardianship idea will probably change the law considerably when it comes to
determining who gets custody of the dog. I expect to see the law change in the
next few years to regard dogs less as property.
Oct. 18, 2005