Who gets the pet in a divorce?

On Behalf of | Sep 19, 2023 | DIVORCE - Divorce, DIVORCE - Property Division |

When a couple goes through a divorce, the matter of who keeps the beloved family pets weighs heavily. A decision is inevitable.

In the eyes of the law, pets are property, which means their custody is subject to property division rules. There is more to know than one might imagine on how courts decide the outcome.


The first element that courts consider is which person is responsible for buying the pet. If one spouse acquired the animal before marriage or can prove to be the sole caretaker, that person is more likely to keep custody.

Best interests of the pet

Courts assess which spouse is more ready to provide a suitable environment for the physical and emotional needs of the animal in question. Living conditions, availability and a willingness to handle daily chores are factors weighing into this evaluation.


The emotional bond between pets and people is another matter. If one spouse has a more powerful connection with the creature and can show this attachment, it may sway a judge to rule in their favor.

Ability to provide care

Courts assess circumstances like work schedules and living arrangements that could impact pet happiness. They also scrutinize whether the proximity of other family members, human or nonhuman, might induce stress.

Cost is another variable. According to an article in Forbes, dog owners spend an average of $730 annually on their canine friends. The winner of this battle should have enough income to provide a happy existence for Fluffy or Fido.

Joint custody arrangements

Sometimes, couples opt for joint pet custody, which allows both spouses to enjoy scheduled visitation. Joint custody is only a viable solution when everyone is amicable.

Determining where pets end up after divorce involves a combination of legal discussions and what makes the most sense for the animals. Separating spouses should be ready to provide evidence of love and commitment to a favorite pet.