Who Gets Custody of the Dog?


This question is extremely common between divorcing spouses and the answer often surprises people: pets are considered property and therefore, in the event of divorce, possession of the pet will, for the most part, be treated no differently than any other personal property. This means that, in awarding the pet to either spouse, the court will look to factors such as, whether the pet was acquired before or after the marriage, whether the pet was a gift from one spouse to the other, and the proven “value” of the pet in equitable distribution. While this means that there is generally no “best interest of the pet” standard for courts to apply, this does not mean that the courts are insensitive to the status afforded to pets in our society. To determine which pet parent is ultimately awarded possession, the courts may consider factors such as each party’s ability to care for the pet and which party has historically been the pet’s primary caregiver. Of course, the parties can always avoid litigation by agreeing out of court to a time sharing arrangement for the pet that is in the “best interests of the pet” and the parties.

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