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When the dust settles after a divorce, it’s not just human hearts that may be left broken – our pets, too, can feel the weight of separation. While it may seem like a small detail in the grand scheme of things, pet custody is no laughing matter.

We’ll explore the legal landscape surrounding pet custody and offer practical advice. A pet trust and advice from a guardianship attorney ensure you and your pets find comfort in these trying times.

What is the Law Surrounding Pet Custody After a Divorce?

In the eyes of the law, pets are considered personal property, much like your car or television. However, courts are increasingly recognizing the emotional bond between humans and their animal companions. Some states have enacted legislation to treat pets more like family members, taking their well-being into account when determining custody.

What Power Does the Court have When it Comes to Pet Custody?

While the court has the authority to determine who gets the family pet, they often prefer to see both parties reach an agreement outside of the courtroom. If you’re unable to settle the matter yourselves, a judge may step in and take various factors into account, such as who primarily cared for the pet, financial stability, and living arrangements.

In some cases, a guardianship attorney may be appointed to ensure the animal’s best interests are considered.

Reducing Conflict Over Pet Custody During a Divorce

To avoid more conflict, consider mediation or collaborative law to reach a mutually beneficial agreement. A neutral third party, such as a mediator or guardianship lawyer, can help facilitate negotiations and ensure the focus remains on your pet’s well-being.

Setting up a pet trust can also provide financial security and a clear plan for your pet’s future care.

What if the pets ‘belong’ to my children?

When Fido or Whiskers is considered a child’s pet, the court may look at custody arrangements for the children to determine the best course of action. In some cases, the pet may “follow the children” between households, providing comfort and stability during a time of upheaval.

What is a ‘Petnup’?

A “petnup” is a prenuptial agreement specifically addressing pet custody and care in the event of a divorce. While it may seem like an odd concept, having a petnup in place can save a lot of heartache down the line. This legal document outlines who is responsible for the pet, visitation rights, financial responsibilities, and even a pet trust to ensure your furry friend’s future is secure.

Can You Share Pet Custody?

Sharing pet custody is indeed possible and may be the best solution for all parties involved. As with child custody, you’ll need to establish a clear schedule for visitation and care. Be prepared to negotiate and compromise to reach a solution that’s in your pet’s best interest.

Shared Custody of Dogs

When it comes to man’s best friend, shared custody can be a “walk in the park.”

Dogs are generally adaptable and can thrive in a joint custody arrangement, provided they maintain a consistent routine. Be sure to keep open lines of communication with your ex-partner to ensure your pup receives consistent care and affection.

Shared Custody of Cats

Cats, being creatures of habit, may find it more challenging to adapt to a shared custody arrangement. As the saying goes, “There’s more than one way to skin a cat,” so consider alternate solutions such as allowing one party to retain primary custody while the other has visitation rights.

A pet guardianship attorney can help iron out the details and ensure your feline friend’s well-being.

Getting the Pets in a Divorce

Ultimately, the most important factor in pet custody disputes is the well-being of your furry companions. As you navigate the emotional rollercoaster of divorce, try to put your pet’s needs at the forefront of your decision-making process. Consider their temperament, routine, and attachment to each party involved.

If you’re unable to reach an agreement, seeking legal counsel from a guardianship attorney may be your best option. They can help you navigate the complexities of pet custody laws and advocate for your desired outcome.

Don’t forget the value of a pet trust, as it can provide financial security and ensure your beloved animal companion is cared for no matter the outcome of your divorce.


Navigating pet custody during a divorce can be a “ruff” ride, but with careful consideration and compromise, you can find a solution that keeps your pet’s best interests in mind. The goal should always be to provide a stable and loving environment for your animal companions as you all adjust to a new normal.

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