Who gets the pets In a Virginia divorce?

Posted on Aug 20, 2012 by Hofheimer Family Law

When you’re getting divorced in Virginia, you and your spouse will have to find a resolution to property and custody issues. Sometimes it can be difficult to find solutions to these disagreements, and they become stressful points of contention. Custody of pets can be one of these issues.

Pets bring joy, comfort and fun to a person’s life. Studies have shown that having a pet around can reduce stress and lower blood pressure. Children, also, can benefit from having an animal because they learn loyalty, compassion and responsibility from the experience. For some child-free couples and those whose children have grown and gone, pets become almost like kids and enjoy a great deal of time, spoiling and attention.

While animals can enrich life, they also can be the object of a heartbreaking battle when a couple decides to divorce. While pet custody is not something that’s discussed frequently, compared to other aspects of divorce like child custody or spousal support, it can be a very emotional and touchy issue for some couples and needs to be addressed gently and wisely by an attorney.

Pet Custody and the Law

Although for many couples a pet is considered a member of the family, from a legal viewpoint, an animal is seen as property. The rules that apply to division of property generally apply to decisions regarding who wins possession of the dog or cat. Usually, if one partner brought the animal into the marriage, he or she will be the one to keep it. If the pet was obtained during the course of the marriage, it will have to be decided which partner will be the primary owner and how the pet will be shared with the ex-spouse.

The laws of “animal as property” may seem a little archaic these days when so many of us have loving and rewarding relationships with our pets. Some judges feel the same way and will consider the fact that they are deciding the fate of a sentient being when making decisions about pet custody.

They will take into consideration which partner has been the primary caretaker of the pet, whether any children involved have become attached to the pet, and other important factors. If one of the parties has ever been violent, neglectful or abusive to the pet, that issue needs to be raised in the case.

If you’re getting divorced in Virginia and you think that pet ownership or custody of pets is going to be a major issue, you should consider divorce mediation. Ending a marriage is difficult and stressful enough for everyone involved; a mediator can help you and your soon-to-be-ex work out an acceptable plan that takes your pet’s best interests into consideration.

Contacting a Virginia Divorce Attorney

The decision to file for divorce usually comes at the end of a long and painful journey. In addition to the emotional turmoil involved, there’s also a lot of fear and uncertainty about what the future holds. Concerns about children, mortgages, and even just paying the bills or buying groceries easily can become overwhelming.

A Virginia divorce attorney at Hofheimer Family Law Firm can examine the specifics of your case to help you decide how much support to ask for, what child custody arrangement will work best for you and your children, and how to divide your marital assets fairly. Request a free copy of our divorce book for women in Virginia or reserve your seat at our monthly divorce seminar – 1-757-425-5200.