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How Divorce Courts Decide Who Gets the Family Pet December 10, 2018

Central Whidbey Island, Island
How Divorce Courts Decide Who Gets the Family Pet, Central Whidbey Island, Washington

Dogs, cats, and other household pets are often beloved family members, which can lead to bitter conflicts when couples file for divorce. Unfortunately, the law considers animals to be personal property, so courts will generally distribute them as part of the estate rather than establishing a custody or visitation arrangement. If you’re involved in a contentious divorce, a divorce attorney will fight for your rights and increase your chances of keeping your pet.

What Happens to Pets in Divorce Cases?

Courts Consider a Variety of Factors

Because they’re legally considered property, family courts weigh a variety of factors when deciding who will maintain ownership of a pet after a divorce. For instance, if you bought or adopted the animal prior to marriage, the court will generally decide that it isn’t subject to property division.

divorce attorneyThe judge might also consider which spouse spends more time and money taking care of the animal, where the children will live and the strength of their bond with your pet, and whether you can provide an environment in which your dog or cat will be safe and comfortable.

How a Divorce Attorney Can Help

While the law might regard family pets as mere property, no different from your furniture or vehicle, divorce attorneys understand the deep emotional bonds that form between people and their animals. In many cases, they may be able to minimize the emotional trauma of the divorce by helping negotiate an outcome that works for everyone, your pet included. However, if you do have to go to court, they can aggressively protect your interests and fight to achieve the best possible outcome.


For over 20 years, McPherson & McPherson Attorneys at Law have provided a level of service that has consistently earned the title of Best Attorney on Whidbey Island. Molly McPherson understands how important your pets can be and will do everything possible to protect your rights and their well-being. Visit Molly’s website to learn more about her divorce representation services, or call (360) 678-4407 to schedule a consultation today.

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