Pet dog

Can You Obtain Custody of a Family Pet During a Divorce?

For many, pets are part of the family and who gets the pet in a divorce is often a hotly contested issue. In this blog, I will explain what factors the Court will rely upon when deciding who gets the pet and how you can come out on top.

Under Virginia law, pets are property and are subject to division by the Court, just like a vehicle, furniture, or any other item. The Courts, under Virginia Code 20-107.3, will do a two-part inquiry. The first question is whether the family pet is marital or separate property. So if the pet was adopted, purchased, or received as a gift prior to the marriage the pet would be separate property and that individual would likely prevail in maintaining the pet's custody.

But what if the family pet was obtained during the marriage? In this case, the pet is marital and the Court will look at several factors to determine who should obtain custody of your pet. These factors include but are not limited to:

  1. Who's funds were used in obtaining and caring for the animal?
  2. Which party is in the best position to continue maintaining the family pet?
  3. Was one party ever abusive to the pet?
  4. If there are children, have the children formed a bond with the pet and where will the children be residing the majority of the time?

It is vital to your case to be able to provide evidence to support each and every factor. Receipts for purchase and care of the animal, veterinarian receipts, animal control officer testimony, witness testimony as to who played with and walked the animal, and photographs will play a vital role in getting you the results you deserve. If we can help you with this or any other matter please give us a call. The right attorney makes all the difference.

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