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Who Gets The Dog (Or The Family Pet) In A Divorce?

Getting a divorce is an never easy process and there are so many questions regarding who gets the house, child visitation or who gets the brand new shiny car in the driveway. But for many pet lovers, the question of who gets the beloved family pet may also become an important point of contention. Our furry companions bring immense joy to our family units and are often seen as more than just a pet but as an important member of the family. Therefore deciding who gets “Fluffy” the dog may be just as important as child visitation and who gets the house for many people. When understanding your rights during each stage of a divorce, contact the experienced divorce lawyers at our firm to assist you in protecting your rights and property.

Pets Are Property

Although we may view our beloved pet companions as important members of the family, Virginia state law does not. In the State of Virginia, pets are legally considered property and will be treated as such by a judge who distributes your property in a divorce. We may view our pets as more than a computer or new couch set and many states have begun the process of updating their laws to recognize that companion pets should be treated in such esteem, but the laws for pets in Virginia have not adopted such a viewpoint. Therefore if two ex-spouses cannot agree about who gets the pet among themselves or through mediation with a third neutral party, a judge will. Virginia is an equitable distribution state, which means a judge will fairly distribute all marital property and debts between both ex-spouses and separate property will remain with the original owner.

Pets Obtained Before The Marriage

If you obtained your pet companion before the marriage, your pet will likely be considered separate property and therefore you are entitled to keep him or her. Adoption papers, a pet license, or proof of purchase, in your name may be sufficient to prove rightful ownership of the pet. As Virginia is an equitable distribution state, separate property includes any property owned by you before the marriage and will not be divided in the divorce. Therefore if you obtained “Fluffy” the dog before your “I dos”, you are the sole owner of the pet and Fluffy is likely to remain with you.

Pets Obtained During The Marriage

Pets obtained during the marriage are not as clear cut as they will be considered marital property and not separate property. The judge will need to take into consideration many factors as to who gets the pet while distributing your marital property. There are many factors that could be considered when coming to this determination. Factors such as who the primary caretaker of the pet is, who pays for the medical costs of the pet, and if children are involved, the children’s relationship to the pet could all be considered. Likewise any former abuse or neglect of the pet by either party could also be considered. Virginia has yet to adopt pet visitation laws similarl to what one would expect when dealing with child custody. Therefore if ex-spouses cannot agree on their own or through mediation about who gets “Fluffy” the dog, a judge will decide which spouse will become the sole owner of the pet.

Let Us Assist You Today

There are a variety of questions about who gets what during a divorce and the beloved family pet is no different. When facing an issue about who gets the family pet or about any matter surrounding your divorce it is always best to consult a lawyer. The divorce lawyers at Shannon & Bedois, P.C. can best assist you in understanding your rights when it comes to property and will help you in figuring out what is best for you and your furry pal. Contact us or call today at (757) 228-5529.

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Shannon & Bedois, P.C. is located in Chesapeake, VA and serves clients in and around Chesapeake, Virginia Beach, Portsmouth, Norfolk, Fort Monroe, Suffolk, Carrollton, Hampton, Chesapeake City County, Hampton City County, Norfolk City County, Portsmouth City County, Suffolk City County, Virginia Beach City County.

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