Legal Question in Family Law in Virginia

Cat custody. During relationship she (27yr old) moved the cat that he (30 yr old) grew up with and has had for years, into her place. They broke up last December. Due to his roommate not allowing the cat back, she kept his cat at her place while he looked for a new apartment. It was stated and acknowledged at that time that once he had a new place to live that he would be taking the cat. He also knew that she has an emotional connection to the cat and was giving her time to adjust to the end of her 1st romantic relationship. He was allowed to visit the cat a few times, but never for long and was told not to visit while she was not there, limiting the available time and adding to the awkwardness. He has finally gotten a new place. Is in the process of moving. Has removed his things from her place. She informed him that if he takes the cat, she will call the police. While there was never any paperwork, there was verbal understanding and acknowledgement that the cat would return to the original owner when a new place to live was found. What can be done? Is there legal precedence or paperwork that can be shown to her? Thank you for time and advice.

Asked on 10/22/17, 10:18 am

2 Answers from Attorneys

Sean Hanover Hanover Law

This is tough, and not at all uncommon. An animal is treated like any other property. Despite the seemingly powerful emotional connection, you can view this the same as you would a dispute about a chair. If you owned the pet prior to the relationship, and the pet has resided primarily with you, then the cat will need to be returned. It also is clear, from what you wrote, that the animal was not abandoned, and she knew that you intended to continue seeing and maintaining the animal. Likely, you will be required to compensate her for caring for your cat while you could not. However, her good will does not translate into "conversion" -- the act of so altering possession as to make it impossible for you to regain your item -- in this case, a cat.

You will need to file in Court to secure an injunction, ordering her to return your property -- the cat. The old term for this was "replevin" -- and this is a perfect example of just this type of situation.

If you have any questions, give us a ring! You may reach Hanover Law at 703-402-2723 or 1-800-579-9864

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Answered on 10/22/17, 2:15 pm
Michael Hendrickson Law Office Michael E. Hendrickson

As the rightful owner of this cat, a Warrant in Detinue is the name of the action you will need to file

in your local general district court (civil division) for the return of your personal property (the cat) if she

continues in her refusal to return it to you.

Office Tel. (703) 838-5577

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Answered on 10/23/17, 7:28 am

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