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What does Louisiana law say about dogs in a divorce?

When you’ve decided to part ways with your spouse, the next step is to file a petition in court and negotiate a settlement. If you have children, you must resolve relevant matters pertaining to their future care and well-being. What if you have a dog in your household when you file for a divorce? How does the Louisiana family justice system handle this issue?

In the past, most states, including Louisiana, have viewed dogs as personal property. Some people disagree with this perspective. They have called for reform to adopt a new legal definition that is better suited toward the nature of dogs that are family pets. These pet advocates say that, since dogs are sentient beings, meaning they can feel and have needs, it is inappropriate to refer to them as property. Sentient beings are different from inanimate objects.

Divorce in Louisiana regarding the family dog

There is no standard answer to “Who gets the dog in a Louisiana divorce?” Each case is unique, and every family court judge makes decisions at the court’s discretion based on the merits of a particular set of circumstances, in accordance with state guidelines. These issues are often factors of consideration:

  • Did you or your spouse own your dog before you were married?
  • Is the dog a service dog or emotional support animal for someone in the family?
  • Are your children (or one child in particular) especially close to the dog?
  • Does one spouse (more than the other) act as the dog’s primary caretaker?
  • Does the dog consider one spouse (more than the other) its Alpha?

Each of these issues can influence the court’s decisions regarding which spouse should “get the dog” in a Louisiana divorce. In some cases, both spouses might share the dog, like having joint custody of children.

Judges in this state must consider dogs as property

Louisiana law does not treat placement of dogs following a divorce as a custody matter. The court considers dogs as property in this state, and their post-divorce placement is, therefore, part of property division proceedings. You and your ex can decide on your own to share your dog after divorce. Keep in mind, however, that the court will not treat the arrangement as a custody matter, meaning nothing is legally enforceable. So, if you and your ex agree to take turns caring for the dog every other week or forge agreements regarding expenses related to pet care, and your ex doesn’t hold up his or her end of the deal, you cannot seek the court’s intervention because it’s not a custody issue in Louisiana.

Emotions run deep where family pets are an issue. If you have questions regarding dog ownership following a divorce, it’s best to discuss the issue with a knowledgeable source before heading to court.

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