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Home » Who Gets the Family Pet in Divorce?

Who Gets the Family Pet in Divorce?

September 5, 2023

Ask any pet lover and they will say that their pet is a member of the family. However, under Connecticut law, a pet is treated as property, no matter how much you love them and how well they are treated. That’s true in divorce cases as well. While you may think of Fluffy or Fido as one of your children, the rules that apply to child custody disputes, don’t apply to animals. How then do you decide who gets the family pet in divorce?

How Are Pets Treated in Divorce under Connecticut Law?

In Connecticut, pets are treated as personal property, the same as a piece of furniture or jewelry. As property, pets are subject to equitable distribution, meaning they are considered an asset that gets divided between the parties in divorce. You cannot divide a pet so instead, one party has to get possession.

If one spouse came into the marriage with the pet, he or she may get to keep the pet. However, that isn’t a certainty. Under Connecticut law, the fact that the pet was acquired prior to marriage and “titled” in one person’s name are not determinative factors; they are two of many factors in determining the equitable distribution of property. So, just because you had your pet first doesn’t absolutely guarantee a Judge won’t decide to give your pet to your spouse. 

Ideally, you and your spouse work out this issue on your own. If you cannot, a Judge will have to decide after a Hearing or Trial where both of you present evidence. Courts will look at several factors in determining who gets to keep the pet. This can include evidence regarding which spouse primarily cares for the pet and who has the time and financial ability to best care for the pet going forward. If the pet is an emotional support animal for one spouse, it may go to that spouse. 

Importantly, Judges have discretion in considering all the facts and circumstances in deciding a dispute over pets, which is why it’s better to come to an agreement with your spouse rather than take your chances with a Judge.

What Is the Best Way to Resolve Disputes Over Your Pets in Divorce?

If you and your spouse cannot agree on who gets the family pet, one option is to share custody. Couples who can put aside their differences may be able to work out an arrangement where both parties get time with their pet. This could also work when there are children involved. The pet can travel with the child to each parent during his or her parenting time.

You may also want to consider Mediation. In Mediation, a trained neutral third-party Mediator helps facilitate discussion between the parties so they are more likely to settle their dispute. The Mediator does not decide the issue but does assist the parties in finding a solution. 

If you are considering divorce, pets may be one of the conflicts you have with your spouse. As with any divorce issue, it is important to have an experienced attorney by your side to advise you regarding the best way to achieve a positive result in your case. Contact us today to discuss how we can help you with your divorce.


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