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What Will Happen To My Pets After Divorce?

For many couples in the midst of a divorce, pet custody is a major point of contention. Which begs the question: what happens to your pets after a divorce?

An emotional issue for both parties planning for divorce, there is not a uniform approach to dealing with pet custody. In the past (and in many states currently) the popular approach to pet custody during a divorce has been to treat pets as personal property—meaning the court will calculate the value of a dog (or cat, or bird, or whatever animal is in contention) like it would a couch or piece of wedding china. More specifically, courts really only looked at the monetary value of an animal when it came to a divorce. Recognizing the emotional attachment many pet owners have to their pets, what we are seeing now is many states taking a more personal analysis of the situation and much like children, looking at what arrangement is in the best interest of the pet.

Not surprisingly, the state of California sees a lot of these types of cases– with more every year. In fact, California even has a domestic abuse statute for animals. Generally speaking, there are three custody options available for a pet in a divorce:

  • Full Custody: The pet stays with one party exclusively following (and often during) the divorce. In most cases, if the children are under the full custody of parents then the pet will likely go with the kids.
  • Joint Custody: Just like kids rotating between nights with the parents, so will the pet; the details of this type of custody are worked out and included in the divorce decree
  • Sole Custody with Visitation Rights: An increasingly popular option when one party to the divorce has less nights with the kids or a busy travel schedule. Here the pet is mostly with one party but the two do work out an agreeable visitation schedule.

When determining which arrangement above works best for the pets, courts will look at factors such as: environment, lifestyle (both the individual’s lifestyle and the needs of the pets), children and other pets. In most instances, determining the pet arrangement is something the divorcing couples prioritizes over many other aspects of the divorce.

At Dream Law, we understand the additional layer of emotion and frustration figuring out pet details during a divorce has on individuals and families. Figuring out who gets custody of your pet (or pets) is part of what we help you do when you hire Lee, Green, Stewart & Paul Attorneys at Law for your divorce. If you are contemplating divorce and concerned about important details like pet custody, get in touch with Lee, Green, Stewart & Paul Attorneys at Law. Don’t let your divorce turn into a dog fight, contact us today. Your first consultation with us is always free. We look forward to speaking with you!