Pets are considered personal property in divorce. Some states will consider who will retain the pet as part of their overall division of personal property, but not to enforce a visitation schedule.
In the event that the court does entertain the determination of which spouse shall retain the pet (usually dogs) the following considerations are usually what is taken into account.
- If the pet belonged to either spouse before the marriage, the case is much clearer that it should belong to that same spouse after the divorce.
- Which spouse bought the pet’s food and supplies? Who took the pet to the veterinarian for check-ups, or if it’s hurt? Who walks it, cleans up after it, feeds it? Which spouse walked the dog and took him or her to be groomed? Which spouse spent the most time with the pet during the marriage? That spouse will most likely retain possession.
- The primary custodial parent will most often retain possession over the family pet. It is usually in the children’s best interests in coping with the change and upheaval for them to continue to have their pet in their home.
- Whose lifestyle is better suited to retain the pet? Does one spouse work long hours while the other works from home? Does one spouse work closer to home? If the pet will not be left alone for long periods of time, that spouse may be more likely to retain possession of the pet.
Often the courts won’t enforce a pet visitation agreement. You are best served under these circumstances to work together with your soon to be ex-spouse to come to an agreement voluntarily–perhaps through mediation. That way you don’t have to endure the expense or heartbreak of potentially losing contact with your pet.