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Who gets the family pet in the divorce?

People who have pets often treat their animals as part of the family. However, when it comes to divorce, the Georgia courts will typically treat pets like property. In other words, in equitable division states, like Georgia, the court will divide up marital property fairly and equitably between the divorcing spouses.

Generally, if the pet was purchased during the marriage or both spouses contribute to the care of the pet, courts will consider the pet to be marital property.

How will the court determine who gets the pet?

While a pet is legally considered property, the court will consider the pet’s wellbeing when deciding where the animal will live. This is similar to the way courts consider the best interests of the child when determining child custody arrangements.

Generally, the pet will be given to one of the spouses in the divorce, depending on the court’s evaluation of several factors, including:

  • Which spouse was the primary caretaker of the pet before and during the marriage?
  • Which spouse is more able and willing to care for the pet?
  • Which spouse has a stronger relationship/bond with the pet?
  • Which spouse will be the primary custodian of the couple’s children (if any)?
  • Was either spouse abusive to or neglectful of the pet?

In some cases, divorcing pet owners may be able to get joint custody of their pet. However, both parties typically will need to live in the same area and get along with each other for this arrangement to work.

Many people are deeply attached to their pets and cannot imagine living without them. If you are concerned about the court giving your pet to your ex in your divorce, consider speaking to an attorney specializing in family law. Your attorney can represent you throughout your divorce and give you the best chance at keeping your pet, as well as other valuable assets.