How are Pets Treated in a Divorce?

Chris Wise Founder
December 14, 2023
3 min. read

How are Pets are Generally Considered in Divorce?

In most states, pets in divorce are considered personal property, similar to other assets such as vehicles or furniture. As such, the court treats pets as property to be divided between the spouses during the divorce proceedings. However, it is important to note that courts recognize the unique emotional attachment and value that pets hold for their owners, and they strive to make decisions that are in the best interest of the pet.

What Factors Do Court Consider When Determining Who Keeps the Pets in Divorce?

When determining the custody and division of pets in divorce, courts consider various factors, including:

1. Pet Ownership

The court will consider who legally owns the pet. If one spouse acquired the pet before the marriage or can prove sole ownership, they may have a stronger claim to the pet. However, if the pet was acquired during the marriage and both spouses have cared for and bonded with the pet, the court may consider shared ownership.

2. Best Interests of the Pet

Courts prioritize the best interests of the pet when making decisions regarding custody and division. Factors such as the pet's well-being, living arrangements, and the ability of each spouse to provide proper care and attention to the pet will be taken into account.

3. Care and Responsibility

The court will consider which spouse has historically been the primary caregiver for the pet. This includes factors such as feeding, grooming, veterinary care, and overall responsibility for the pet's well-being.

4. Child Custody

If there are children involved in the divorce, the court may consider the bond between the pet and the children. Keeping the pet with the children may be seen as beneficial for their emotional well-being.

Court Discretion in Pet Divisions in Divorce

It is important to note that most states do not provide specific guidelines or statutes regarding pet custody and division. Instead, the court has discretion to make decisions based on the unique circumstances of each case. This allows the court to consider the best interests of the pet and the specific dynamics of the divorcing couple In some cases, divorcing spouses may be able to reach a mutual agreement regarding the custody and division of their pets through negotiation or mediation. This can provide more flexibility and control over the outcome, allowing the spouses to create a plan that works best for their individual circumstances and the well-being of the pet. If the spouses are unable to reach an agreement, the court will make a determination based on the factors mentioned above.

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