Who Gets the Pet in a Divorce?


Posted by heritagelawoffices on Apr 3, 2020 in Blog, Divorce Law

It’s hard nowadays to find someone who doesn’t consider their pet a member of the family. But what happens to pets when a couple separates or divorces? While there is no specific legislation that currently deals with the concept of pet custody, there is an emerging trend in which people are taking their partner to court over their family pet. Read on to learn more about pet custody, and how pets are divided in a separation or divorce.

A Pet is Considered A Possession

Under the current law, animals are considered to have an “owner” and, therefore, are considered to be possessions. Because animals are seen by the law as possessions, there is really no such thing as having “custody” over a pet. You can only have custody over a sentient being (like a child, for example). When it comes to the division of family property in a divorce or separation, it’s usually split evenly between the couple – which begs the question, “how do we split our dog?”.

How Are Pets Divided?

Even though there is still no legislation when it comes to the division of pets, the courts are becoming increasingly aware that many people see their pets as more than mere possessions and are taking that into consideration when making a ruling.

If a pet was brought into a relationship prior to marriage, it may be considered excluded property, and will remain with the party who first bought the pet. If a pet was purchased after marriage, there are a couple factors that might be taken into consideration by the court, such as:

  • Who took care of the pet during the relationship
  • Who is the sole owner (who actually purchased the pet, whose name is on the city pet license, etc.)

The simplest, and most common way pets are divided in a divorce or separation is through a written agreement between the couple. The couple can come to an agreement that satisfies them both and they can include as much or as little detail as they like. These agreements normally include things like visitation schedules and rules regarding how costs will be shared.

If you are looking to outline a pet agreement for your divorce or separation, contact the team at Heritage Law. Our experienced family lawyers will ensure that you and your partner come to a mutually satisfactory decision.