Who Gets the Pet In Divorce

You and your spouse may be ready to divorce but when it comes time to split things up, who will get your shared pet? Your pet is like family and while they may not be human, many people love their pet like their own child. But, unlike child custody and family law, there are fewer concrete processes established for determining who gets custody of the pet. Unlike a child that is a dependent, pets are typically viewed as property by the state.

Psychology Today explains the complex issue of pet custody in divorce, “according to the law in most jurisdictions, a dog is merely property and is to be considered much like furniture or real estate. This means that, in divorce proceedings, courts are only supposed to concern themselves with the ownership and monetary value of a dog. Recently a number of American states, notably California, Alaska, and Illinois, have sought to change this…In many cases, judges seem to be making decisions for awarding custody of dogs based on the same criteria for that would be used to determine the custody of children. For example, in Newport Beach, California, a judge awarded custody of two Rottweilers, Guinness and Roxi, not on the basis of which person had the more valid claim of ownership, but rather according to “what was best for the dogs.”

There are, of course, various factors to be considered. Did one spouse owns a pet before the couple got together? Has one person primarily been the caretaker for the pet? What are the living conditions of both spouses? Who has the best ability to care for the pet in the future? It is not easy to determine who gets a pet and divorce when you work with a mediator you have the best chance of reaching a mutually agreeable solution.

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