Baltimore, MD asked in Animal / Dog Law for Maryland

Q: If I'm under 18 can I legally take my cat that lives at my dad's house to my mom's?

I live under 50/50 custody between my mom and my dad, and the living situation at my dad's house is less than ideal. If I go to live at my mom's house, I would want to take the cat with me, who is my pet in every way except on paper, as I technically cannot own anything as a minor. I wouldn't want my dad to hold this over my head as a reason to stay with him and sacrifice my mental health, and I also don't want to get me or my mother into legal trouble. I also don't think he would let me take her willingly, as he would want to use her as a bargaining chip. What do I do?

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1 Lawyer Answer
Mark Oakley
Mark Oakley
  • Rockville, MD
  • Licensed in Maryland

A: Most judges would direct the cat go with the minor child's primary household, but legal title on ownership papers may still be argued. I cannot imagine any parent will receive any good consideration from a judge in a custody dispute by spitefully holding their minor child's pet hostage as a means to exercise emotional and physical control. Despite legal title, the judge could determine the cat was a gift to you, and therefore actual ownership passed to you as a minor, to be held for you by whomever is your primary legal custodian. That person would be your mother if that's who prevails in any custody dispute. You do not state your age, so I cannot opine on whether you are old enough for a judge to consider your preferences as to whom you would want to primarily live with, but I also do not see a judge granting your father possession of your cat if you were to take the cat to live with you at your mother's house when the cat has been clearly your pet and you are emotionally attached to it. This is a conversation you need to have with your mother, and then your mother has with her attorney in the custody case. I do not recommend unilateral decisions on your part, and I do not know the details of your situation, so any clearer advice is risky to provide. I will say this: if I were your father's lawyer in such a dispute, I would tell him to let you have your cat., regardless of who is granted primary custody. Any other advice would undermine his credibility and his legal case to be deemed a fit and proper parent who has your emotional well-being at heart.

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