Who Gets the Pet in a Divorce?


For some couples, their pet is almost like their child. They both love their cat or dog and treat them as if they were part of the family. When a divorce occurs, therefore, it can be just as hard to determine custody of a couple’s companion animal as determining child custody might be.

In 2014, the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) found a 27% increase in the number of couples who have fought over custody of a pet during the previous 5 years. However, while many people regard their pet as a part of the family, family law hasn’t really caught up to that fact. There is still no statute or rule dictating what to do with a pet in the event of a divorce.

A few judges have begun recognizing that pets have a unique role in the family when deciding a custody dispute. On an individual level, a judge might consider making a decision in the pet’s best interest. However, legislation is only now being discussed regarding changing the law.

Many attorneys recommend spouses work out custody of pets between themselves and document the decision in the separation agreement. However, if the issue goes to court, the judge might focus on existing law rather than what’s best for the companion animal. Proof of purchase or adoption of the pet may be what the judge bases his or her decision on.

You and your spouse may be able to decide on custody by considering several factors, including the following:

  • Who took on the most responsibility?
  • Who spent more time on a regular basis with the pet?
  • What arrangement is in the pet’s best interest?
  • Who wants custody now and how close will the parties live to one another to share custody?
  • If children are involved, are they attached to the pet?

If you and your spouse still need help negotiating the terms of custody, don’t hesitate to call our Bronx divorce attorneys. Empire Law has more than a decade of legal experience to offer your case. Let us see what we can do for you and your family.

Contact us at (347) 343-5467 or fill out our online form today.

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