Divorce and Property—Who Gets the Family Pet?

For many people, a cherished pet is like a child—so what happens to that pet if you go through a divorce? Can you fight for custody of a pet? What will a judge do if the parties cannot agree?

What’s Best for the Pet

Animal experts have long argued that dogs tend to be more partial to one person or another. Accordingly, if your pet is happiest with your ex-spouse, or if your ex is the one who handled most or all of the responsibilities associated with the pet—feeding, walking, cleaning litter box—it probably makes sense that your ex get the pet. Under the worst-case scenario, provided the divorce is amicable, you can probably arrange to see the pet on a regular basis. You might even offer to pet-sit when your ex is away.

Pets as Property

At the present time, pets are still considered property in all 50 states, and are to subject to equitable distribution or community property laws. It’s extremely rare, though, for someone to list a pet as an asset for the purposes of property settlement. A more common occurrence is a custody arrangement for a family pet, particularly if the animal has an emotional attachment to both parties.

You want to be careful, though, that any such arrangement is clear about visitation and financial responsibilities related to pets. Who will have responsibility for veterinarian bills? Who will have the right to make end-of-life decisions?

It is worth noting that, in most instances where there are pets and minor children, the pets typically stay with the children.

Contact Morgenstern & Rochester

At Morgenstern & Rochester, our two partners have almost 50 years of combined family law experience. We are a boutique family law firm that takes a hands-on approach. When you hire us, you will always work directly with one of our partners, never with an inexperienced associate or a paralegal.

To arrange a confidential meeting with an experienced Cherry Hill family law attorney, contact us online or call our office at 856-489-6200.