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What Happens to Your Pet When You Get Divorced?

Getting Divorced with Pets

A frequently asked question is, “what happens to my pet when I get divorced?” You’ve decided to get divorced and now need to determine what to do with your shared pet.  This is a common issue now when a couple gets divorced. “Pet custody fights” are occurring with such increasing frequency that many courts now consider this much like child custody. However, the State of Washington (as do most states) still recognizes pets as property, and will determine who gets the pet as such.

How the State of Washington Handles Pets in Divorce Cases

The court takes several things into consideration when determining to which spouse the pet will be awarded, some of which are as follows:

  1. Which spouse purchased the pet?
  2. Was the pet a gift to only one spouse or to both?
  3. Who has been paying for the pet’s expenses such as vet visits, food, etc.?
  4. In which spouse’s household does the pet currently live?

It will be very important to have as much documentation as possible, for example, a receipt showing purchase of the pet, veterinary records, and receipts of purchase for day-to-day items such as food.

Settling Outside of Court

More often than not, the handling of your “pet custody” is resolved outside of court. You can get a shared custody agreement can be put in place. This allows each spouse to keep the pet during certain days of the week. This is similar to a parenting plan when children are involved. Another option, depending on each spouse’s wants and needs, is for one souse to keep the pet in exchange for money for more personal property.

Additional Considerations

Whatever the results, keep in mind that your pet is very much like your child. Their routine has changed–sometimes dramatically if they are moved to a new home–and as such they will need additional love and support during your transition from married to divorced.

Do you have questions about what happens to your pet when you get divorced?

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