Pets & Divorce: Who Gets to Keep Fido?


Pet custody disputes are on the rise. How do the courts decide who gets to keep the beloved pet after a divorce? Learn more about the factors involved in determining pet custody.

Determining Pet Custody in a Divorce

While the law unfortunately considers pets as personal property, most pet owners would disagree. In fact, it’s not uncommon for people to identify their pet as a child. And indeed, it’s hard not to after experiencing the joys of owning one. But when a couple divorces, what happens to Fido?

The question isn’t simple, but it’s one that’s being asked more frequently. Per a report by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, 27% of attorneys are reporting an increase in pet custody disputes.

Because pets are regarded as property in the eyes of the law, there is no way to know how the court will handle a pet custody dispute during a divorce. It’s possible that they will simply label the pet as personal property and deal with it as such. However, there are many courts that do spend time resolving pet custody disputes, particularly if children are involved.

Resolving Pet Custody Disputes

If the court system does choose to review the dispute, they will most likely review numerous factors to determine who will get custody or be awarded ownership of the “personal property”. It should be noted that there are no legal criteria for pet custody, so it will largely be up to your attorney to identify the relevant facts that support your position and present them to the judge assigned to your divorce. Factors that could be looked at include if the pet was obtained during the marriage or belonged to one of the spouses beforehand. The court will also look at who spends the most time caring for the pet. If there are children involved, there’s a good chance the pet will stay with whoever receives custody of the children.

One of the best ways to protect the welfare of your pet and avoid potential disputes is it to include it in a prenuptial agreement, if you intend to have one It may be much easier to discuss a custody plan for Fido while you’re contemplating a long and healthy marriage as opposed to arguing about it during a divorce. This may also make it easier to avoid court while divorcing.

Hobson / Oram Law

Hobson Oram Law