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Can I keep my pet after the divorce?

One of the biggest questions for people going through a divorce is whether they will get to keep their pet afterward. It’s an important question for people who treat their pets as they would their children. 

Pets have so much personality, yet it may seem inconsiderate to people to discover that in California pets are considered property. This means that a pet is likened to a table or car during the distribution process (as disturbing as that may be to learn). However, this rule can help decide who gets to keep the pet after the divorce. 

How is pet ownership decided?

The court has to consider a few things before a cat, fish, dog, bird or lizard is given to one spouse. For starters, if the pet was owned before marriage, then it may be considered separate property and may go back to its original owner. Couples who create prenups or postnups could also detail what happens to their family pet if there is a divorce. With this, each spouse is aware of the consequences of a divorce.

The court may also look to see how a pet is treated before establishing an owner. The spouse who paid for the pet’s expenses, vet bills and food may have a better claim to the animal. Similarly, the spouse who trained the animal, groomed it or played with it the most may be given ownership during the divorce. Furthermore, if a spouse has a history of abusing the animal, that could also affect the outcome of the owner.

Finally, a child could also have a strong bond with a family pet. As a result, a pet may be granted to a spouse if the separation of the pet harmed the child’s well-being. 

It’s not always guaranteed who will get a pet in a divorce. However, people who understand their legal options may have more desirable outcomes when these things are decided.



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