EP 50: Who Keeps the Dog in Divorce?

Welcome to the fiftieth episode of Divorce and Your Money Show.  Shawn Leamon, MBA and a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, discusses what happens to pets in divorce.

Most pets aren’t just pets to their owners.  They could represent an extension of your family.  Accordingly, having pets can be a very challenging emotional issue because fighting over pets is in many ways no different from fighting over custody of a child.

Few specific legal rules apply regarding pets, as it’s a relatively new area of divorce law.

Pets, from a dollars and cents perspective, don’t really have much financial value except in certain circumstances,  such as exotic animals, extremely rare breeds, or if they are horses used for polo or racing.

What to consider in determining who gets the pet:

  • Realistically, whose pet is it?  This is a very important initial consideration.
  • If you received your dog as a gift, then it’s likely the pet is yours.
  • If you purchased the pet, a case can be made that it’s more yours than your soon-to-be ex-spouse.  This logic always works in the opposite direction as well.
  • Who takes care of the pet?
  • Who is best suited to take care of the pet after you are divorced?

One way to really strengthen your case is if you have documentation about how you’ve helped your pet over time.

As far as thinking about pets from a financial perspective, if we’re looking at your assets and debts, their dollar value is near zero, but the emotional connection to them can be of infinite worth.

A word of warning—don’t end up making poor financial decisions because your spouse uses your pet as negotiating leverage. You need to be very careful about agreeing to something that could harm you later on down the line.  That is a very easy trap to fall into when it comes to your pet.

Key Learning Points:

  • From a dollars and cents perspective, pets don’t really have much financial value except in certain extreme circumstances.
  • Some things to consider regarding who gets the pet after divorce are whose pet is it, who takes care of the pet, and who is best suited to take care of the pet after the divorce.
  • If you are really going to fight for the pet, the more information you have and the more documentation you have, the better.
  • You need to be very careful about agreeing to a deal that could harm you later.

Thank you for listening to the Divorce and Your Money Podcast. We hope the show helps you through one of the most difficult periods of your life. Shawn Leamon is also author of Divorce and Your Money: The No-Nonsense Guide. One-on-one divorce coaching services are available at www.divorceandyourmoney.com.

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Shawn Leamon, MBA, CDFA

Dallas, Texas

Shawn C. H. Leamon is Managing Partner of LaGrande Global, a firm that helps successful families manage large financial transitions like divorce, inheritance and selling a business.

He earned his Bachelor of Arts from Dartmouth College, double majoring in Economics and Philosophy, and his Masters in Business Administration at Spain’s IE Business School.

Before founding LaGrande Global, Shawn helped manage $1.1 billion in client assets at Bernstein Global Wealth Management. He also worked as a credit research analyst at J.P. Morgan. He is a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, and he has been an advisor to numerous high-stakes divorce cases.

Shawn is the author of two well-received finance books: Managing Private Wealth: Principles, and Divorce and Your Money: The No-Nonsense Guide, both published in 2016.

In his spare time, Shawn is an ultra-endurance athlete and has competed in events as long as 24 hours. He is an Eagle Scout and a member of the Alumni Board of Greenhill School.