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Who gets the family pet in a divorce?

On Behalf of | Sep 24, 2021 | Divorce

If you are going through a divorce, one of the things you may have to worry about is what’s going to happen to your family pet. Whether you have a cat, dog or another animal, that pet is important to you. It’s like family, and you want to make sure it’s cared for.

By law, pets are the same as property in a Virginia divorce. That means that your pet will be subject to the state’s equitable distribution laws. A value will be assigned to it, and that value may simply be the cost of the pet when you purchased it or the value based on its own winnings in competitions or other situations.

Pets are living creatures, but they’re treated as property

Even though your pet has its own preferences and activities it enjoys, it’s not treated like a human. You will need to consider the value of your pet when determining a property division settlement. For example, if your pet is worth $600, your spouse could ask you for $600 worth of assets in exchange for the pet. That’s reasonable in the eyes of the court in Virginia.

Of course, since Virginia recognizes equitable distribution, you don’t necessarily need to negotiate for an even split of your assets, pets included. Instead, you should negotiate based on factors such as who invested more money into the marriage and which person should receive a greater proportion of your assets.

What can I do if I want my pet but my estranged spouse does, too?

You both may decide to set up unique arrangements, such as creating a custody schedule for your pet. This isn’t normally something the court will do, but if you both agree to that arrangement, then your attorney can help you ask the court for approval.

Otherwise, what you should do is consider the best interests of your pet. If your pet does have a preference, which some will, about whom they live with or whom they want to be around most, consider that when deciding who will take over their care in the future.