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During A Divorce Who Gets Custody Of The Family Pets?

Kahn and Richardson - Wednesday, August 23, 2017
Pets are often viewed as family members, so, in the event of a divorce, who gets custody of the pet? Traditionally, pets have been viewed as personal property, sharing the same category as furniture or cars. Because of the rise in pet ownership and the high incidence of divorce, the issue of pet custody has become more common. 

Factors Determining Pet Custody

As with child custody, the Court will look at a number of factors when determining who gets custody of the family pet. In a divorce, the factors that determine who will get custody of the family dog or cat may include:

Who takes care of the pet’s basic daily needs (food, shelter, walks, grooming, social, etc)?
Who takes the pet to the veterinarian?
Who pays the veterinarian bills?
Who has the greatest ability, both physically and financially, to support the pet?
If there are children in the marriage, will the pet be taken away from them?
What will serve the best interests of the pet?

Especially when a spouse is moving out of the area, other important factors may be the age of the pet, possible separation from animal friends, and the stress of long distance travel.

As with other personal property, if a spouse owned the pet prior to the marriage, the pet is that spouse’s separate property and will most likely remain with that spouse. Absent agreement between spouses, a pet acquired during the marriage will be “distributed” as the Court sees fit. The Court may establish a visitation schedule. 

As of 2006, “companion animals”, defined as a dog, cat or any other domesticated animal that lives in or near the household, but not including farm animals, may be added to an Order of Protection issued in a New York State criminal Court or Family Court. A Respondent may be ordered to refrain from intentionally injuring or killing any companion animal that the Respondent knows to be owned, possessed, leased, kept or held by the Petitioner or a minor child in the household.

If you are beginning the divorce process, we at Kahn and Richardson recommend you seek an experienced Divorce Property Division Lawyer to assist you in the process of marital asset distribution. If you entered into a valid Separation Agreement or Prenuptial Agreement, your right to specific marital assets may have already been determined. Learn more here .

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Practice Areas
  • Divorce
  • Separation Agreements
  • Custody & Visitation
  • Property Division
  • Spousal Maintenance
  • Child Support
  • Prenuptial Agreements

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