The majority of households nowadays own at least one pet. More often than not, these household pets, no matter what type of animals these are, is considered as a real part of the family. It is indeed heart-warming to see videos featuring pets being smothered by love by their owners. Animals are loyal, will never judge you no matter who you are, and will love you just the same.

Owning a pet is like having your own biological child. Taking care of your pets can be an emotional roller-coaster ride. However, the problem may start if the couple decides to call divorce lawyers to end their relationship for good. Just like their biological children, the soon-to-be-ex-couple would also have to think about who gets the pet. It might be easier said than done, but it can be complicated especially if both the spouse loves their pets very much.

Can divorce impact pets, too?

The ASPCA reports that dogs are often relinquished or rehomed due to a divorce. It is also said that every year, there are about 100,000 and more dogs are turned up into shelters. In many cases, this is not because divorcing couples do not love their pets anymore.

It can be because the couple is undergoing a stressful divorce situation that they have to focus on, and that the decision to rehome their pet is the lesser evil than abandoning it. Nonetheless, this ultimate decision can impact animals in ways we won’t realize easily.

A well-trained pet would have to adjust to his new surroundings and result in behavioral changes. Unfortunately, this thing really happens in a lot of divorcing couples. However, there is also an option for one of you to keep the pet instead of giving it up for adoption.

What does the law say about pet custody?

Divorce can indeed turn a person’s world upside down. For one thing, you would have to hire the best divorce lawyers in your area. Also, you can expect that divorce would take a while to be finalized. It will depend on several factors and that the ex-couple should mutually agree with the terms for child custody, alimony, property distribution, and more.

It is another story if the ex-couple have household pets. As mentioned, a lot of homeowners consider their pets as part of the family. Spousal support lawyers and child support lawyers may not have a say about pet custody. But for pet lovers, their beloved pets deserve a nice and loving home even if the couple has already separated for good.

It may not be a popular term but settling pet custody terms is a thing. From a legal perspective, household pets such as dogs, cats, and others are considered community property. This means that the court and divorce lawyers may not consider pet custody as a “major” dispute that should be settled legally.

But if you want to settle pet custody in a legal way, there is actually no need to do so. Instead, you can opt to have a notarized and signed pet custody agreement to avoid stressful custody struggles with your ex-spouse in case a divorce happens.

Who gets the pet?

As mentioned, you don’t have to settle pet custody in court. Rather, you may have to deal with pet custody between you and your ex-spouse. To settle this matter, you can make a divorce plan that addresses custodial terms for your family pet. Family lawyers can help, but the terms will nonetheless be your final say.

There are many things to consider when drafting a divorce plan for pet custody. Among these important factors include:

  • Who brought the pet to the household? More often than not, the spouse who brought the animal to the marriage should be the latter’s caretaker.
  • How will the spouse claim custody for multiple pets? If you have two dogs, it may be a good idea for both of you to take each dog.
  • Who travels or is out of the house most of the time? In such cases, the one who is often at home should be the pet’s caretaker.
  • In worst cases, the pet would have the “say” which parent it favors. If the pet is more comfortable with the other spouse, then the decision has been made.


Divorce can be really painful, and so is for pets. Pet custody may not be under the discretion of child support lawyers. In other words, the ex-couple should be the one to make the decision on their own. But for their other divorce-related concerns, they should contact top-rated divorce lawyers in Fairfax VA.