Dogs and Divorce: The Basics

It’s difficult to plan for divorce. There are a number of things you need to consider—home relocating, budget changes, drawing up a plan for the children, considering alternatives to court, singlehood. One thing you might not be considering in the unfortunate event of marriage dissolution is your dog. Divorce is tough on everybody involved—family dogs included.

Pets are considered personal property in the event of a divorce. That means personal property laws apply. Georgia is an equitable distribution state, which means the courts will divide property in a divorce as equally as they see fit. In regard to the family dog, they might consider any or all of the following conditions:

  • Who was the dog’s initial owner?
  • Does the dog favor one owner over another?
  • Which spouse is the more responsible pet owner?
  • Has there been any kind of abuse toward the pet?

There are two types of property to consider in a divorce: marital and separate. Marital property is any property acquired during the marriage. This is the property that will be equally divided. Separate property is anything acquired before—or separate from—the marriage. If you acquired the dog before getting married, the dog belongs to you.

How divorce affects dogs

Family dissolution can affect your dog in many ways. Because dogs are creatures of habit, any disruption in their routine affects them. And because of their sensitivity toward this disruption, you should always carefully consider your dog’s needs in this difficult time. According to the ASPCA, divorce is one of the most common reasons so many dogs end up in shelters.

The following is a short rundown of other ways divorce might affect your family dog:

  • The discord in routine can result in a dog’s emotional trauma. Expect a few bathroom accidents.
  • Other new/old habits might form/return, such as barking and chewing.
  • Relocation is confusing to a dog, and they will behave accordingly.
  • Dogs cannot tell us how they’re feeling; they show us through behavioral changes.

And remember: If you have more than one dog, you’re getting divorced—your dogs aren’t. Separating dog “siblings” can have detrimental effects on their behavioral health. They can exhibit depressed signs, low energy, house soiling, appetite loss, and many others.

Your dog is having a natural reaction to a confusing and stressful situation. Act compassionately and patiently.