You think of your pet as a member of the family. The court, however, does not. If you file for divorce, your pet is just another piece of property. This comes as a surprise to some owners, who would never put a pet in the same category as a car or a boat.

That’s how the court sees it, though, so determining who keeps the pet is a property division issue. Some couples address this in a prenuptial agreement; others do not. Of you don’t have anything in place yet, important questions that the court asks could include:

  • When was the pet purchased? Did you or your spouse buy it prior to getting married, or did you buy it together after the marriage?
  • What is your child custody situation like? Is it better for the pet to go with the children so that they can maintain a relationship with this animal that they love?
  • Who provides the pet with more care? That person likely has a stronger bond. The court may ask things like who buys the food or takes the dog for a walk more often.
  • Do you or your spouse have a lifestyle that works better with a pet? For example, maybe you stay home and you can care for it all the time, while your ex spends weeks on business trips.
  • Does one of you want the pet more than the other? You may be able to find a solution as you divide up the rest of your property.

During a case like this, be sure you know what legal rights you have.