Who Gets Custody of Pets in a Divorce?

Dividing assets in a divorce can be a heartbreaking process. Even worse than splitting up cars and houses and retirement accounts is deciding who gets the family pets. When two spouses both want custody, how does a court decide where the pets go?

If you are facing difficult pet custody issues in your divorce case, don’t leave them up to chance. Consult with an experienced Georgia divorce attorney to ensure that your pets are adequately cared for. Attorney Kyle E. Epps has extensive experience in all divorce matters, including pet custody issues.

How Pets are Classified

In Georgia divorce cases, child custody is determined by an analysis of the best interest of children. Pets, however, are considered property. There is no statutory requirement that judges conduct a “best interest of the dog” analysis in awarding custody to one spouse or the other. Of course, a strict tangible property analysis cannot achieve a fair outcome for the pets involved.  Practical considerations demand that the court examine all facts and circumstances of the case. This is what determined the outcome of an Alaska case, Jeulfs v. Gough. The Goughs’ chocolate Labrador retriever, Coho, was awarded to the husband in the divorce, due to the fact that the wife’s other dogs posed a danger to it. The wife was granted visitation with Coho. (Later, the visitation resulted in an altercation between the parties, which resulted in them each taking out a restraining order against the other. The wife asked an appellate court to reverse the custody decision. The court declined to do so.)

No such reported cases exist in Georgia, but anecdotal evidence suggests that trial court judges are approaching pet custody matters in much the same way. This hybrid approach of treating pets as property, but considering the circumstances which best dictate their needs, allows divorce litigants more room to argue their position to a family court judge. The Huffington Post recommends that you consider the following when arranging custody for your pet:

  • How flexible is your work schedule? Do you have a support system to help you care for the pet when you have to work late or go out of town?
  • Will you be able to financially provide for the pet throughout its expected lifespan? Will you be able to cover unexpected medical or boarding expenses if they arise?
  • Do you have children who are attached to the pet? How will you and your former spouse share custody of these children?
  • Has your former spouse ever neglected the pet’s needs, or acted abusively toward it?
  • Do you have sufficient room for the pet to run, play and otherwise enjoy itself?

The Right Divorce Attorney for You

Pets are part of the family, and in a divorce, their fates are decided just like the human family members. Georgia divorce litigants trust experienced divorce attorney Kyle E. Epps III to protect their legal rights. Let the Epps Law Group guide you through your divorce to ensure the best possible outcome for you and your family. Call (678) 456-4627 today to schedule your consultation with an experienced divorce attorney.