Who Gets the Custody of Pets in a Divorce?

Pets are an integral part of a family, so no wonder when a couple is contemplating a divorce, the fate of the beloved pet can become an emotionally charged issue. It’s best to deal with this sensitive issue with the help of a professional mediator who can facilitate a fair resolution while taking into account the sensitivities of both parties who want to keep the custody of the family pet.

Your Pet is not a Mere Piece of Property

Pets have feelings too, even though they cannot verbalize them like humans do. Therefore, dumping your furry companion in the same category as a piece of furniture or a car is certainly not what any pet lover would want when they have to decide who gets to keep the pet in a divorce. The value of your pet cannot be calculated purely in dollar terms like an inanimate object.

Mediation is, therefore, the ideal recourse to discuss the subjective and sentimental value attached to a family pet. A diligent and patient pet custody mediation expert will help both spouses explore common ground in order to find an amicable end to the pet custody dispute.

Factors to Consider in Pet Custody Mediation

A mediator will encourage both sides in a pet custody mediation to keep their personal differences aside and focus on what might work best for their pet. To make the discussions more objective and fair to both parties, the mediator will try to determine all the relevant factors that may enable a reasonable and mutually acceptable resolution to the issue of pet custody. These may include:

  • Which spouse paid for the pet, and who is the official owner according to the ownership papers?
  • Which spouse has been paying for the expenses related to pet care?
  • Which spouse has the primary responsibility to care for the pet, including feeding and grooming the pet, making sure they get regular exercise, and taking them to the vet?
  • What are the respective work schedules of both spouses, and does one of them have more time available to care for the pet?
  • After divorce, which spouse will have adequate space in their home to provide a safe and comfortable environment to the pet?
  • Is the pet more emotionally attached to either of the spouses?
  • Is the couple’s child so attached to the family pet that keeping them apart could affect the child’s well-being?
  • Does either party have a history of pet neglect or abuse?

Why Mediation is Better than Litigation for Pet Custody?

In litigation, there will be little to no room for sentimental considerations, and chances are that the decisions related to the pet will be addressed similar to any other piece of marital property. On the other hand, mediation will provide much more flexibility to arrive at a pet custody and visitation arrangement that accounts for the wishes and concerns of both spouses.

Mediation negotiations will take place in an informal, non-adversarial setting behind closed doors. Both spouses can freely and frankly put forward their points in the presence of a trusted mediator, who will ensure that privacy and confidentiality is maintained. Rather than allowing a judge make a decision on pet custody, mediation puts the divorcing spouses in control of the decisions related to their beloved pet.


Roseann Vanella

Roseann Vanella’s experience and credentials alone set her apart from other professional mediators in the state. She has an extensive business and financial background, and worked for many years in a corporate setting. Roseann is also very personable, down-to-earth, and she is truly passionate about her work. Having been through… MORE

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