Divorce can bring up a lot of different questions, depending on your situation. If you’re a parent, you’re likely wondering who’s going to live with the children. If not, then you’ll still be wondering how assets are going to be divided.

A pet dog can feel like sort of a gray area. It’s clearly not a child, but it’s also clearly not just an asset that you purchased. You feel like the dog is a major part of your family. So how do you address this in a divorce and who gets the dog?

Technically, pets are property

The first thing to understand is that the way that you feel about your dog doesn’t matter here, at least in Virginia. In the eyes of the law, even if you consider the dog part of your family, he or she really is just an asset. Your dog is considered property, much, in the same way, your refrigerator or your couch are considered property.

This can cause a lot of problems in a divorce because it means that the court isn’t going to give you some sort of a custody ruling where you share ownership of your pet. If you and your spouse bought or adopted your dog during your marriage and can’t determine how to take care of this on your own, the court can rule on what happens to the dog during the property division process.

However, they’re most likely just going to pick one person and give them the dog while giving other assets to their ex. This may not be favorable for either of you (or your dog). So, it’s important to consider all of the options that you have to set up a plan that will work.

FAQs About Dog Custody Disputes

Can we include a pet custody agreement in our divorce settlement?

Yes, you can include a pet custody agreement in your divorce settlement, outlining visitation schedules, financial responsibilities, and the well-being of the pet.

Can joint custody of the dog be an option in a divorce?

Joint custody of the dog is possible if both parties are amenable to the arrangement. However, this might not be practical for every situation, and the pet’s best interests must be taken into account.

Can I use a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement to address pet ownership in case of divorce?

Yes, a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement can address pet ownership and custody arrangements, providing clarity and minimizing disputes in the event of a divorce.

What if we can’t agree on who gets the dog?

If you and your spouse cannot agree on pet ownership, mediation may be a helpful option. A neutral third party can facilitate discussions and help find a resolution that suits both parties.

Should I seek legal advice about pet ownership during the divorce?

Yes, consulting with a family law attorney experienced in handling pet custody matters can help protect your interests and guide you through the process of determining who gets the dog.

Remember, pet custody can be an emotionally charged issue during a divorce. While pets are beloved members of the family, the law treats them as property. Seek legal advice to ensure your rights and the best interests of your pet are safeguarded. The information provided in this blog post is for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. For personalized advice regarding your divorce and pet custody, consult with a qualified family law attorney.