Do I Have To Surrender The Puppy?

Do I Have To Surrender The Puppy?

The Question:

Can my ex take a family dog that is chipped in my name?  We live in AZ and got 2 puppies together from the same litter.  When we split, he moved into a hotel while I stayed at the house with the dogs and my kids. He is still living in a hotel that has no area for dogs to run. He is now stating I have to surrender one of the dogs by law to him because the dog was “his”. The vet paperwork from their vaccines and being microchipped are in my name. Do I have to surrender the puppy?

RJ Says:

If you are not married, or the dog was obtained prior to marriage, I have taken this exact case to Trial recently.  We proved at Trial that my client was offered the dog by a co-worker, paid for the dog out of her own account, and took all the steps necessary to register and certify the dog.  This dog was clearly owned by my client.  How do those factors compare to yours?

If you are married and obtained the dog during the marriage, the answer is a bit more complicated.  We are not permitted in Arizona to make custody-type arguments regarding a pet.  Instead, your dog is considered a piece of property that must be “equitably divided”.  Since we cannot divide a dog, we instead must divide its value.   It does not matter which of you took steps to acquire the dog. 

I ask my clients to try to compare their pet to a couch.  If you are fighting for a couch, the only way you are going to get the couch is if you say it is worth more than the other side says it is worth, and you are willing to pay the other side the difference.  I have literally been in an open court divorce trial where the judge asked both parties to write a “bid” as to what they believed the pet to be worth, indicating that he was going to award the pet to the highest bidder.

Whether married or not, you are not obligated to return the dog just because he demands such.  If there are legal proceedings pending or anticipated, the issue can be handled more formally within the legal proceedings. 

A qualified and experienced family law attorney can of course assist you in considering your options and then getting where you need to be. Most of us offer free, « hour consultations, in which your matter can be discussed in detail. That would be a great opportunity to discuss the specifics of your matter and develop a plan.  I would encourage you to quickly schedule this free consultation.

Do you have a question? Send it to RJ, and we’ll get you the answer you need.