Divorce and Pets

Dividing things up in a divorce can be tricky – especially when it comes to pets. For many people, pets are like children. And when divorce happens, dogs, cats, and all other pets are considered “personal property.”

According to family law attorney, Charla Bradshaw, “In a divorce, pets must be awarded as part of the property division and therefore will usually go to one spouse or the other, “However, spouses can choose to co-own the pet going forward and create a visitation schedule for the pet. We have done these orders and they actually work very well.”

Pets like Children

Often times the pet’s visitation schedule will resemble, and work like a child’s visitation schedule. Financial expenses with a pet will also be resolved in a similar fashion as child’s expenses. “When spouses co-own a pet, we must provide provisions for the expenses related to the animal,” says Bradshaw.

Community Property?

Often times the way the pet is considered is argued over – since pets are considered personal property, the line between separate property or community property can be blurred. Separate property is acquired as a gift, inheritance, or if the property was already owned by a spouse on the date of the marriage. Separate property also cannot be divided by the court. Spouses often argue if the pet was a “gift,” or whether it was bought together. This would make the pet community property, and thus subject to being awarded to either one or the other spouses.

Rise in Pet Custody Issues

According to a poll of 1,500 members of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, a quarter of them had seen a rise in custody issues surrounding pets. It’s been left to courts to decide not only who gets custody of the pet, but also if the other spouse will receive legal rights to visit the pet after the marriage is dissolved. According to Bradshaw, “Identifying the best interests of the pet in a divorce case can safeguard that the pet is properly cared for after divorce.”

Source:, In a divorce, who gets the pets?, August 18, 2014

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