According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, 36.5% of Americans own dogs and 30.4% of Americans own cats. So, it is not uncommon when a married couple divorces for the question of who gets to keep the pets to arise. Most of the laws are designed to protect the best interests of human children in divorces, like shared custody, visitation rights, and alimony. The laws for pets are intended to focus on the best interest of the owner instead.

Under the law, pets are considered personal property, which means that they are capable of human ownership and control. The law sees granting shared custody or visitation of the pets would be exactly the same as them trading their television or video game system back and forth from one week to the next.

Before a court decides who gets what property in a divorce, it should usually be decided whether it’s in the territory of being a “community property” which will be split 50/50 or a reasonable distribution, aka split fairly. It must then be decided which property actually belongs to the couple (rather each individual) and how much the property is worth. Any agreements that the couple already decided on will also be considered, especially in the case where there is a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement. Even in deciding who gets the pets, the court will go through the same steps as if it’s any other piece of property.

Pets are becoming such a big part of our regular lives; some courts are beginning to change this analysis and are even agreeing to treat pets more like children. This has largely occurred with dogs. Courts can help consider what is best for the interest of the pets and help determine who gets custody of them. Courts have also granted shared custody, visitation, and alimony payments for the owners. The majority of the time, owners will have to work out a contract between themselves instead.

It seems trivial; figuring out who gets custody of a 3-year-old poodle or a 10-year-old calico cat. But pets are a part of the family and a part of the equation when it comes to a lot of divorces. Though many people might think it’s ridiculous, divorce does take a toll on pets.

A dog that was once energetic and full of life may become depressed. They may eat less, sleep more, and even lose interest in activities, like walking or playing with their neighborhood friends. These are typically signs that your pet is stressed out. Here are some things you should consider if you do have a pet involved in your divorce:

  • Put aside your own feelings to the right decision and think about what is best for your furbaby. The both of you should consider such aspects as who fed and cared for them the most before the divorce, who has the funds to be able to pay for their veterinary care, food, and other expenses, and when it comes down to it, who the pet is closest to. Trust me, you know.
  • You should consider letting the pet go where the children go. This allows them to say in the family where and be surrounded by familiar things and their routine is not changed so drastically.
  • So, you have two pets and each of you should get one, right? More than likely, these pets are bonded to each other and you should try to keep them together. Separating them would probably not be in their best interest and you’d more than likely have a very sad dog on your hands.
  • Once you do decide on who gets custody or how you’ll be sharing custody of the pet or pets, make sure to spend time with them. Play with them and take them to the veterinarian to make sure they are doing well physically.

If keeping your pets is important to you, discuss it with a Arizona family law attorney at Shaffer Family Law, sooner rather than later. Ultimately, even deciding who gets the pets after divorce is something that should be well-thought-out. While having pets can significant benefits for health, it is important to decide whether keeping your pets is truly in your children’s and your best interests for the moment. Give Shaffer Family Law a call at (480) 470-3030  today!

Scroll to Top