Who Gets the Dog in the Divorce?

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July 14, 2016
Tags: advice | divorce | legal | tips


Divorce can be a rough time for everyone involved, including the friends we care for that can’t speak for themselves. Splitting things up between split partners may leave the question: who gets to be the caregiver to the beloved pets when a marriage ends?

What is a “Pet” Anyway?

Although some people call them their kids, under the law, pets do not fall into the same category as children. Instead, dogs, cats, snakes, or any other pet are considered property and are to be distributed as such by the judge overlooking the case in question.

Determining Where They Should Go

One judge may be a pet lover. Another judge may think family only stands on two legs. As such, it will be at the whim of each jurist what factors are taken into account when deciding where a pet should go. For example, a judge may ask themselves who initially acquired the pet. If one spouse has an adoption certificate in their name, then that may sway things in their favor. However, it isn’t unusual for couples to adopt or purchase pets as a couple – and that complicates things.

If one person usually feeds, walks, or grooms the animal, that someone is already the primary caretaker and will be knowing and ready for the responsibility of pet ownership after the divorce.

Also keep in mind that if one spouse is clearly a better provider, the animal’s best interests are taken into consideration and custody may simply be determined that way.

Preparing and Protecting Pet Custody

There are a couple ways to prepare and protect pet custody. One way is to plan for pet custody ahead of time, before a relationship becomes weaker. This is the most proactive approach to the potentially messy situation of deciding if you can keep your animal companion.

And, like children, shared custody with visitation is also an option. Although it isn’t legally binding and is an informal agreement you and your partner must come up with on your own, it is still an option that shouldn’t be overlooked.


Pets can be more than just friends, they can be family. Laws concerning ownership are shifting… but it can be a slow process. If you have a close connection with a pet of any kind, it’s important to keep steps in mind on how to stay with your furry BFF.
For more information, please read: https://www.goldbergjones-or.com/divorce/property-or-family-member-pet-custody-and-divorce/