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Dividing pets in divorce

Although most people consider their pets to be members of the family, the law, unfortunately, still sees them as property. So when couples divorce, Las Vegas family court judges will award the family pet much like they will award the living room sofa or the big-screen television. But unlike the couch or the TV, a pet is a living, breathing animal that requires care, and many judges will actually make something similar to a child custody order when determining the custody of the pet.

In general, a judge is likely to grant custody to whichever pet parent owned the animal at the time of marriage. That default can be overridden, however, if the other owner can show that he or she could provide a better home for the pet.

If the couple purchased the pet together, the judge will likely look at which person’s name is on the city pet license, and the veterinary and microchip records. Commonly, both owners’ names are connected to the pet in some way, in which case the judge may order joint custody of the animal.

In that case, pet owners should try to handle the co-parenting of their pet as they would if they were co-parenting a child. They should develop a plan for both the daily care and long-term care of the dog, and share responsibilities and costs associated with that care. They should also strive to keep their dog on a consistent schedule, and keep familiar items at both of his or her homes. This may also help evade some of the behavioral problems that often result when a pet’s home and routine is disturbed in such a major way.

Source:, “What Happens to Pets After Divorce?” Victoria Schade

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