When deciding what spouse gets the family pet in a divorce, there are many factors to consider. The beloved family pet is not considered a child, even if it’s treated like one; rather, it’s considered property. It will need to be given a value as part of the divorce and awarded to only one spouse as part of the final divorce settlement. The courts do not consider a pet as part of a child custody case and will not always put the best interests of the pet first. If you are concerned about how to be awarded the family pet as part of a divorce, consult with an experienced family law attorney who can help with your case. Rhode Island Divorce Lawyer Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum

Factors to Consider

Since pets are considered martial property, they will be awarded to only one party. Custody or visitation is not typically considered an option. For pets that belonged to one spouse prior to marriage, it will be considered as non-martial property and awarded to that spouse.

For cases where the two spouses can’t come to an agreement on who is to be awarded the pet, the court may need to intervene and make the final decision. If the court determines that the family pet is part of the marital property that needs to divided between the spouses, the following factors may be considered when a final decision is made about who the pet gets to stay with:

  • What spouse has the strongest bond with the pet?
  • Does one spouse take better care of the pet than the other?
  • Who paid for the pet’s care and other expenses during the marriage?
  • Whose living arrangements will better suit the needs of the pet? Does one spouse’s home have more outdoor space or pet-friendly areas?
  • Is one spouse’s work schedule better for the pet than the other’s?
  • Was the pet given as a gift?
  • Will the children want to keep the pet with them?

If there are multiple pets in the household, they may be divided evenly between the two spouses.  In cases where the pets are bonded to each other, they may still be separated from each other as part of the settlement.

Other Options to Consider

Since most courts will not award joint custody of pets, there are other options that can be considered, so both spouses can still enjoy time with their beloved companions. Mediation can be done where the two spouses, along with their attorneys, meet to come to an agreement about the custody of their pets. This process does not involve the court and gives couples a way to put the pet’s best interests into consideration.

An attorney can help guide you through the process of mediation and offer suggestions based on similar cases. They will be able to help you determine what agreement will work best for your specific situation and your pet’s needs. They can also help set up a visitation schedule that will work best for both parties.

Some possible arrangements for pets in a divorce may include:

  • Having the pets follow the same custody arrangement as the children. The pets can go along with the children to whatever house they are assigned to.
  • Allowing for visitation at an agreed upon location, so a spouse is still be able to spend time with the pet.
  • Dividing up time equally for the pet to go between the two homes during the year.

In addition to mediation, an attorney can help create a legal agreement concerning the pet. Once arrangements are agreed to, this can be put in writing and be legally binding.

If an agreement cannot be reached and the custody of the pet needs to be taken to court, an attorney can help prove your case. They will gather evidence from sources such as a veterinarian, neighbor, or groomer to help support your case in proving that you are the best caregiver for the pet, so you can be awarded custody.

Do You Need To Speak To A Rhode Island Divorce Attorney?

If you are considering a divorce you need to speak with an experienced Rhode Island divorce attorney as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Warwick office directly at 401.946.3200 to schedule your free consultation. We help divorce clients in Providence, Warwick and all areas of Rhode Island.


Christopher L. Russo
Helping Rhode Island personal injury victims for nearly three decades to get the compensation they deserve.