New Considerations for Pets in Divorce

Since pets are considered property and are classified under the same rules that apply to other property, pets can be marital or separate property.

A dog or cat may be separate property at the start of a marriage but become marital property as the non-owning spouse becomes attached to the animal over time. When who gets the family pet(s) becomes an issue, the courts usually consider the following:

  • The partner who will provide the best care for a pet;
  • The person with the stronger emotional attachment to the pet;
  • A general rule is whomever is awarded child custody is more likely the one to be awarded the family pet.

Most courts consider pets to be community property, excluding any evidence that they are the separate property of either party. In light of the contention that can arise regarding pet custody, several states and municipalities are enacting or considering specific statutes that govern the disposition of pets in a divorce.

In Wisconsin in 2007, a state lawmaker introduced a proposal that is believed to be the first pet custody law in the United States. And more recently, Maryland lawmakers considered legislation that would treat a pet like a child by naming one parent custodial and the giving the other parent visitation. The proposed Maryland law would:

  • Give one party sole ownership of the pet;
  • Give one party sole ownership of the pet with visitation rights granted to the other party on a schedule that the court determines; or
  • Give both parties ownership of the pet and order custody of the pet to be shared by both parties on a schedule that the court determines.

In another action, one court case determined that if the parties could not agree on pet custody, those pets would be sent to an animal shelter. The first spouse to go to the shelter to "adopt" their pets would then have legal custody, assuming no one else adopted the animals.

If the disposition of a pet is an issue in a divorce, it is a good idea for the spouses to try to come to agreement themselves.

State Information:
Best Selling Books:

Resources & Tools

Bookstore Promotion Discount

Start Your Divorce Online Start Your Divorce
Several Options to Get Started Today.
Divorce Tools Online Divorce Tools
Keeping it Simple to Get the Job Done.
Divorce Downloads Download Center
Instantly Download Books, Guides & Forms.
Divorce and Custody Books Discount Books
Over 100 of the Best Divorce & Custody Books.
Negotiate Online Negotiate Online
Settle your Divorce and Save.
Custody and Support Tracking Custody Scheduling
Make Sure You Document Everything.

Easily Connect With a Lawyer or Mediator
Have Divorce Professionals from Your Area Contact You!
Enter Your Zip Code:

Easily Connect With a Lawyer or Mediator
Have Divorce Professionals from Your Area Contact You!
Enter Your Zip Code:

Start Divorce

Contemplating Divorce?

This tutorial has been written to help people who are contemplating divorce or separation better understand what lies ahead. This overview will allow you to make better and more confident decisions.

DIY Online Divorce

Divorce Online

3StepDivorceTM is an easy, affordable online divorce solution that produces all your divorce paperwork in less than one hour.


Divorce Checklists

These checklists will not only help you organize vital information, but also itemize the information you may need for your own personal reference or to provide to a professional.

Negotiate Your Divorce

Online Divorce Negotiation

So you and your spouse have a few issues to iron out before you can agree on your divorce? You are not alone, but you do not have to spend thousands on a lawyer to reach an agreement.

Start Reaching Potential Clients Through Divorce Source. Learn More

Guarantee Official PayPal Seal Facebook Twitter Versign Secure Site