How to Decide Who Gets the Dog in a Divorce 

By Lois G. Schwartz | November 16, 2022

How to Decide Who Gets the Dog in a Divorce 

One of the most difficult parts of a divorce is deciding which spouse will get to keep the couple’s or family’s pets. Although pets are considered property under the law, most pet owners consider their pets to be members of the family. Disputes over who gets to keep a pet in divorce can be litigated just as heavily as child custody. Unfortunately, there is no clear-cut answer or guide to figuring out which spouse will get to take a pet in a divorce. 

Negotiate an Agreement

Ideally, you and your spouse can negotiate an agreement about which one of you will take your pets. Unfortunately, leaving it up to the court to decide can create a lot of confusion and stress, as some judges will treat pets like any other property, while other judges may try to consider the animal’s welfare. At the end of the day, it is in your, your ex’s, and your pet’s interest to reach an agreement over who will take the pets. 

Factors to Consider When Deciding Who Gets the Dog

Factors to consider when negotiating who will keep the pets in divorce include:

  • Each spouse’s daily schedule and routines: You and your spouse should consider your respective schedules and routines, including whether either of you leaves the house for work, how many days both of you work, and what hours each of you works. If one of you leaves the house for work or works odd hours, that spouse may not be able to provide your pet with the attention it needs or to take care of your pet’s other needs, such as regular walks, feedings, or veterinary appointments. You may also want to consider which of you will best be able to maintain your pet’s current routine. 
  • Travel: If you or your spouse regularly travel for work and/or pleasure or travel for extended periods, the other spouse may be best suited to keep your pets, so that they won’t be left in a kennel or with a pet sitter all the time. 
  • Ownership: If either you or your spouse brought the pets into the marriage, that may weigh in favor of the spouse who owned the pets prior to the marriage getting to keep them in divorce.
  • Bonding: If your pet has a greater emotional attachment with either you or your spouse, you may want to keep your pet with the spouse to whom it is more closely bonded to.
  • Multiple pets: If you own multiple pets, splitting them up may be a viable compromise. However, you should also consider whether your pets have a bond with each other and would be adversely affected by splitting up. 
  • Children: If you and your spouse have children, you may consider having the pets go with the spouse who will be the parent of primary residence so that your children can maintain their connection.
  • The marital home: Similarly, if either you or your spouse will be keeping the marital home, the spouse keeping the home may also keep the pets so that they don’t have to deal with even more change. 

Custody Arrangement May Also Be Viable

If you and your spouse will still live in proximity to one another and are both close to your pets, you might consider establishing an arrangement similar to child custody, where each of you gets periods of time to have your pets at home with you. 

Contact a Cherry Hill Family Law Attorney for a Consultation About Divorce in New Jersey Today

If you are thinking about filing for divorce, or if you have already started the divorce process and are dealing with another matter such as child custody, child support, or division of assets, you need to speak with a qualified attorney. Family law attorney, Lois Garber Schwartz, Esq. represents clients throughout the state, including Cherry Hill, Mt. Laurel, Haddonfield, and Pennsauken. She understands how challenging this time can be for you, which is why she will fight hard to protect your interests, and the interests of your loved ones, throughout the legal process. Call her at (856) 482-8799 or fill out our confidential contact form to schedule a consultation. She has an office conveniently located at 1040 Kings Hwy. N., Suite 202, Cherry Hill, NJ 08034.

The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.

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    Lois Garber Schwartz

    1040 Kings Highway N., Suite 202

    Cherry Hill, NJ 08034


    Phone: 856-375-8989

    Fax: 856-482-0343