There are two separate considerations that influence how contentious property division is in a divorce: An asset’s financial worth and it’s emotional value.
Few assets have more significance to people than their pet or companion. While your beloved dog seems like a member of the family, the sad truth is that the courts will very likely treat it as a piece of property and not a person when you file for divorce.
An animal alone is considered chattel property
Although you may feel like it is impossible to put a value on your pet and that the only fair way to handle it in a divorce is to split custody between you and your ex, the judge presiding over your divorce likely won’t take the same approach.
Given that there are no statutes that directly discuss how to treat an animal during divorce, judges treat pets as a piece of physical property with a specific financial value. That value is the fair market value that it might command on the market or that you would have to incur to replace it, not what you feel it is worth. The value will factor into the division of other property in your divorce as well.
You can make a private agreement about your pets
The only way to avoid an outcome where one spouse keeps the dog and the other is cut out from its life is to negotiate a settlement outside of courts that includes shared pet custody or even visitation. While the judge won’t take the time to establish such a plan, they will likely approve any uncontested agreement you and your spouse make about your pet.
When you understand your rights as a pet owner facing divorce, you can take the steps necessary to secure a property division outcome that is positive for you and your pet.