What happens to the family pet in a divorce

Virginia child custody disputes are decided based on what is in the best interests of the child. However, there is no similar standard for the family pet. Instead, Virginia law treats even the most beloved pets as property.

You and your spouse may voluntarily agree to share custody or to create a visitation schedule for your pet, but the court will not impose one. 

How a Virginia Court Decides a Pet’s Placement

Most courts do not want to get involved in deciding who keeps the family pet. If a court has to divide property, it may try to include the pet as a purely financial asset. However, in some cases, the court may consider the following when deciding who retains ownership of the pet:

  • Who owned the pet before marriage or whether the pet came to the family during the marriage
  • Whether anyone abused or neglected the pet
  • Who takes care of the pet on a daily basis
  • Who the pet prefers
  • Who spends more time at home
  • If there are children, where the children will be living and whether it is in their best interests to stay with the pet

Equitable Distribution of Pets and Property

The value of the pet will be considered in your overall division of property. In Virginia, all marital property must be divided equitably. Equitable does not mean equal, however. Instead, equitable means fair and that all relevant factors are considered. When dividing marital property, the court may consider things such as each spouse’s age, financial and non-economic contributions to the family, ability to earn an income, tax consequences for each spouse, and the length of the marriage.

Your Divorce Lawyer Can Fight for Your Pet

For many people, the value of a pet is not a financial issue. Dogs, cats, and other animals are part of the family. If you want your pet to continue to live with you after your divorce, it is important to make sure that your family law attorney knows this. Our lawyers will make your priorities our priorities. We will strongly advocate for your interests and provide you with realistic advice concerning your divorce settlement. Call us in our Midlothian law office today, or start a live chat with us now to learn more.