Many people consider their pets as part of the family. However, the law categorizes pets as property to be divided during a divorce. In many cases, the pet is awarded to only one spouse, thus preventing the other spouse from seeing their pet. But some courts might take an approach that more resembles child custody than property division when it comes to pet custody.

If you are getting a divorce, consult with an attorney to go over the options you might have to determine custody of your pets. Call the Ward Law Firm at 770-383-1973.

How is pet custody determined in Georgia?

Georgia courts determine pet custody based on numerous factors. Because Georgia law considers pets as property, property division laws apply.

Georgia is an equitable division state, meaning that courts will divide the marital property in a fair and equitable manner. Equitable does not mean equal, so the court may not necessarily split the property down the middle.

The court will consider all of the couple’s marital property that is subject to division, and divide it in a way it deems fair and just. The pets are lumped in with the rest of the property. But this brings up an important point: when the pet was acquired can affect these cases

Marital vs. Separate Property

Marital property is property acquired during the marriage and is subject to division between the spouses during a divorce. Therefore, if the couple acquired the pet during the marriage, the court will consider it marital property to be divided with the rest of the marital property during divorce.

Any property obtained before the marriage, as well as gifts and inheritance during marriage, is separate property and will not be subject to division. If one spouse acquired the pet prior to marriage or if the pet was a gift to or the inheritance of one spouse during marriage, then it is not subject to division. It is the property of the spouse who acquired the pet or received it as a gift or inheritance.

Documentation of when you acquired the pet can be crucial in these cases, not only when it comes to custody of the pet, but ownership of any property.

Will the court make special considerations to determine pet custody?

As stated above, courts typically apply property division laws when determining pet custody. However, some courts will consider other factors when deciding who should get the pet.  Some of these factors include:

  • Which spouse is more responsible for caring for the pet
  • Which spouse has closer relationship with the pet
  • Which spouse spends more time with the pet
  • Which spouse, if any, has been abusive or neglectful of the pet

It is important to gather documentation, photos, testimony, and other evidence to create a clear picture of your relationship with the pet, helping the court answer these questions.

Is joint pet custody an option?

In some cases, courts will award joint custody of the pet and come up with a shared pet custody agreement. While we are aware of such cases, we have never personally represented a client where this was the resolution to a question of pet custody.

While sharing custody of a pet may sound ideal, it can become complicated and cause hostility and disagreements in some cases. We encourage our clients to fully consider the property that matters most to them when getting a divorce, whether it be the house, investment properties, or even the family pet.

If you are getting divorced, call 770-383-1973 to schedule your REAL Case Analysis with the Ward Law Firm. We can discuss all matters relating to your divorce, including custody of your pets.

David Ward
Georgia Divorce, Family Law and Estate Planning Attorney. Helping Parents Protect The Things That Matter Most