portrait of young bulldog showing the tongue against a grunge background

With having domesticated animals, it should come as no surprise that pets are often an important issue in divorces. Pets are considered property, and will be awarded to one of the spouses. Courts will not enter a pet visitation order absent a previous agreement of the parties. However, judges do not ignore that family members have real emotional attachments to the pets. There are several issues judges will consider when deciding which spouse will be awarded the family pet.

The first consideration is who has historically been responsible for the pet’s care. If one spouse can show that he or she is typically the one who has been taking the pet to the veterinarian, administering medicine, taking the pet for walks, and feeding the pet, then that spouse is more likely to be the one to receive the pet in the divorce. This can be difficult to prove. If one spouse keeps separate credit cards or bank accounts and can show that vet bills or pet expenses were paid from that account that could be used as evidence. Direct testimony from the spouses is the more common method of establishing this factor.

The next thing a court may consider is who will be the custodial parent of the parties’ children. Often the custodial parent will be the one who is also awarded the family pet, as the children are typically bonded to the pets. By keeping the pet with the children, it can help the children transition into the new life by having the stability of the family pet remaining as a constant.

Finally, the court will also look to which spouse spent the most time with the pet. If one spouse is much more bonded to the pet than the other, it is only logical that that spouse be awarded the pet. Although pets are considered property in the eyes of the law, most judges are disinclined to award a pet to a spouse who shares little to no bond with the animal, as that could result in anxiety or stress for the pet.

If you are concerned about what will happen to your family’s pet, contact us at(732) 479-4711 We can the judge will examine and help you apply them to your case.

About the Author


John Nachlinger is a co-founder and managing attorney of Netsquire, a family law firm focused on streamlining divorces through effective mediation, settlement drafting, and court filing assistance. As a New Jersey Supreme Court Certified Matrimonial Law Attorney and Qualified Mediator, John guides couples toward equitable agreements without the cost and stress of litigation.

Recognized as a New Jersey Super Lawyer for over a decade, John’s client-focused approach aims to foster understanding during challenging transitions. With a background spanning top law journals, judicial clerkships, and boutique family law firms, John now applies his analytical skills to create workable solutions for all parties. His mediation services reshape the divorce journey by prioritizing compassion and compromise.

LinkedIn | State Bar Association | Avvo | Google