Who Gets the Dog in the Divorce?
About 2/3 of Americans own a pet. But what happens if a couple decides to split up? Who gets the dog? Or cat, or parakeet, etc.?
Community or Separate Property?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. There is one case where it is rather simple: Was the pet a gift? Gifts are considered “Separate Property,” and belong solely to the recipient. It is possible that the pet ended up being more one spouse’s even if they were not the gift recipient. In that case, the couple may decide to let the pet stay with that person.
The decision of who gets custody of the dog during a divorce will vary depending on the specific circumstances. However, there are a few factors that judges typically consider when making this decision, including:
- Who was the primary caregiver for the dog before the divorce? This is often the most important factor that courts consider. It shows who has the strongest bond with the dog and who is best able to provide for its needs.
- Who is willing to pay for the dog’s expenses? This includes things like food, vet care, and grooming.
- Who has the most flexible schedule to accommodate the dog’s needs? This includes things like taking the dog for walks, playing with it, and training it.
- Does either spouse have a history of animal abuse? If so, the court is likely to award custody of the dog to the other spouse.
- What is in the best interests of the dog? Ultimately, the court will make a decision based on what it believes is in the best interests of the dog. This may include considering factors such as the dog’s age, breed, and temperament.
Try to Agree Outside the Courtroom
If the couple can agree outside of court, they should put their agreement in writing and have it signed by both parties. This will help to avoid any future disputes about the dog. We strongly agree with this approach.
If couples cannot agree, they may need to go to court. In court, the judge will make a decision based on the factors listed above. The judge’s decision is final and cannot be appealed. This is why we encourage couples to figure it out ahead of time, as they may not like what the judge decides.
Pets are Legally Property
It is important to note that pets are considered property in the eyes of the law. This means that they are not treated the same as children in a divorce. In most cases, the court will award custody of the pet to the spouse who is willing to pay for it and who has the most flexible schedule to care for it. However, the court may also consider the best interests of the pet when making its decision.
We don’t include pets (or children, for that matter) in our SplitFairy tool. We feel they are more than simply property to be given a monetary value and assigned to one spouse or the other to balance Community Property. You and your spouse have cared for the pet, and we don’t want to encourage putting values on feelings.
You can also come to a mutual agreement to co-parent the pup. The dog can stay some time with one “parent” and the remainder with the other.
If you are going through a divorce and you are concerned about who will get custody of your dog, you should speak to an attorney. An attorney can help you understand your rights and options and can represent you in court if necessary.