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When divorce is for the dogs (and cats)

dog-pets-divorce-300x165A proposed bill in the Maryland House of Delegates seeks to address one of the difficult questions that comes up when a couple is divorcing: Who gets the dog?

Pets are considered personal property by the court, and a judge may resolve any dispute between the parties about ownership. But House Bill 749 would permit a judge to create custody and visitation rights for a domesticated animal.

The bill, sponsored by Del. Michael E. Malone, R-Anne Arundel, would allow the court to grant sole ownership to one party, visitation rights for the other party or shared custody. The court then determines any necessary schedules for visitation and custody.

If the court rules on pet ownership, it cannot order any maintenance or expense payments.

The bill’s fiscal and policy note mentions that legislation was proposed in 2011 and received an unfavorable report from the House Judiciary Committee.

The bill is scheduled to be discussed in the committee Thursday afternoon.

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