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Who will get the family pet when we get divorced?

Divorce is never easy, and some separations are more traumatic than others. While some couples simply divide up their belongings and move on amicably, things grow increasingly complicated when children or other essential relationships are involved. For many people, this includes the family pet. Dogs, cats, and other creatures are more than a possession—they are truly a part of the family, and deciding who gets to keep these family members can be challenging and painful.

Pets and Divorce Under Virginia Law

While child custody is handled with care and consideration of what is in the best interest of the child, the same sensitivity is not afforded to those who consider their pets to be their children. Under Virginia law, pets are determined to be objects. Thus, they are treated as personal property. There is no difference between your car and your golden retriever when it comes to the division of belongings in a divorce.

If you wish to share custody or create a schedule of visitation for your family pet, that must be done privately between parties—the court will not get involved.

While most courts do not wish to get involved in determining who keeps the family pet, it can be included in the division of property and financial assets. A mediator may ask the following questions when determining who keeps pets:

  • Was the pet owned by one of the individuals prior to the marriage, or did it come into the family afterward?
  • Has anyone abused or neglected the pet?
  • Who takes care of the pet on a daily basis?
  • Who does the pet prefer?
  • Who spends more time at home?
  • Where will any children be living, and is it best for them to stay with the pet?

Again, these questions are designed to bring a logical resolution to the task of property division. The emotional attachment or preferences of one of the divorcing spouses does not obligate the court to make special considerations.

A Virginia Divorce Attorney Can Help

While the court considers a pet to be property, a dog or cat often means so much more to both parties. If you want your pet to live with you full time, consider discussing this with a divorce attorney. The job of a lawyer is to make your priorities their priorities, including the future of family pets. A lawyer can advocate for you, search for evidence proving why the pet is better off staying with you, and many other factors that can benefit your case.

Do You Need To Speak To A Virginia Divorce Attorney?

If you are considering divorce you need to speak with an experienced Virginia divorce attorney as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Fairfax, Virginia law office at 703.277.2811 to schedule your free consultation. We help clients throughout Washington D.C., Maryland and Virginia and look forward to helping you.

Related Links:

  • Divorce and the Stay-at-home Parent: Planning and Preparing for Significant Change

  • Divorcing a Narcissist Isn't Easy

  • Guiding Divorcing Couples Through Their Property Division Process