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Tips for Getting Custody of the Pets in a Divorce

Updated on February 27, 2013
by B a r s h o ™
by B a r s h o ™

Sometimes the only thing in a divorce procedure that creates more emotional turmoil than dealing with the custody of children is deciding who will get the pets.  Unlike children, however, pets are not considered by the courts to be part of the family but are given the status of property.  Your furry friends have the same classification as the dining room table or a TV.  If you would like to keep your pet with you, you need to know the judge will weigh certain issues before she decides if that will happen or not.    

Deciding Factors Regarding Pet Custody

When was the pet purchased? If the pet was purchased before the marriage, odds are that it will be given to the person who owned it originally. When the pet came into the family during the marriage, however, other factors come into play.

If there are also children involved in your divorce, the parent who gains custody of the children will probably also get custody of the pets. That may seem harsh to the party who is left without either children or pets in their home, but kids and pets often form strong bonds and courts are usually more sympathetic to children’s needs than those of adults.

Who was the pet’s main caregiver? Whoever most frequently took care of the pet’s needs will have an advantage in this case. If you are the one who fed and watered the dog, took it for walks and saw to its medical care, and you can prove it, you will have a strong case for letting you take custody of the animal.

Another aspect that the judge will consider is the resources you have to offer the pet. What is your living situation? If you live in a tiny apartment with no outdoor area and your ex has a home with a fenced in yard, your former mate will be more likely to be given possession of your 100-pound Labrador. If you seriously desire to win this decision, you will need to be prepared to show that you have adequate room and finances for the care of your pet.

If your pet has monetary value because it is a show dog or is used for breeding to create income, the judge will not usually allow sympathy to enter into his decision. He will be forced to treat the animal as he would any other piece of valuable property. If you have more than one animal, he will probably split the pets between you and your ex.

How Pets Help You Heal After Divorce

Are There Visitation Rights for Pets?

Some courts have granted visitation rights to pets, but that is not the normal procedure. You are more likely to be granted visitation rights if you present yourself in a calm and reasonable manner in the courtroom. If the proceedings become volatile, the judge will feel that visiting the pet will only exasperate the difficulties between the former mates.

Before you begin to fight for custody of your pet, ask yourself why you are doing it. Do you truly love the animal or are you simply using it as a means to cause your ex more pain? If true affection is the motivator, let your lawyer know how much the animal means to you and ask him to help you keep your furry friend.


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