Caught In The Middle: Pets And Divorce


Of all the issues to battle about during a divorce, pets can come a close second to children in evoking emotional and contentious reactions. Both of you may consider the pet "yours," and when you no longer care to spend time in each other's company, that can present a few dilemmas. Read on for a better understanding of how the law looks at "pet custody."

Pets may not seem like property, but they are.

In the strictly legal sense, there are no "custody" or visitation provisions for pets. Pets are considered property under the law, and are part of the marital estate. The marital estate encompasses everything from the family home and the furnishings within to vehicles, boats, artwork, rental properties, retirement accounts, and more. If you have a prenuptial agreement in place with a provision for the family pet, the judge may consider that when making the ownership decisions, but there is no legal onus for them to do so. The same thing goes for those who address pets in a marital settlement agreement; they are considered as property and custody and visitation provisions are not enforceable.

Decide for yourselves

When you both realize the courts have no way to adequately address the pet issue, you should make every effort to come to some type of agreement on your own. You may be able to set up a visitation or shared custody schedule among yourselves, even if it isn't legally valid or enforceable.

If you leave it to the judge

The judge will evaluate the situation in contention by looking at who has been the pet's primary custodian all along and will ask questions like:

  1. Who paid for the pet, and was it a gift?
  2. Who mostly took care of the pet on a day-to-day basis? Who fed, groomed, walked, bought pet food for it, gave it medicine, etc?
  3. Who took the animal to the vet?
  4. Who will have the best living environment for the pet after the divorce? Is there a dog park nearby for an apartment dweller? Does one party have a fenced back yard?
  5. Do you have minor children who are emotionally attached to the pet?
  6. Do the "pet parents" live near one another if ownership were to be shared?

Be sure to speak to your divorce attorney for more information about how the laws deal with pets. The laws are changed daily, and you may have special provisions addressing this issue in your state. Contact a firm like Eschbacher Law to learn more.


22 February 2017

Helping Victims of Domestic Violence

My name is Laura, and I am an attorney specializing in helping clients leave violent marriages. The law can help victims be safe, but many potential clients cannot afford legal services and may be afraid to pursue divorce. They may not be aware of services that have been created to keep them hidden from violent ex-partners and to help them be awarded assets in a divorce so they can provide for themselves and their families. I hope to raise awareness of these issues as well as help direct people in danger to facilities where they can receive guidance and financial assistance.