If you are considering a divorce and one of your top priorities is your pet, you are not alone. One report shows that 27% of family lawyers surveyed have seen an increase in couples fighting for custody of their beloved pets. However, according to the Animal Legal Defense Fund, “in the eyes of the law, …[pets]… are really no different than the silverware, the cars, [and] the home”. In other words, the ownership of pets are determined by most courts like any other physical property.
However, one state has changed this view. Alaska has just become the first state to require courts to take “into consideration the well-being of the animal,” during the divorce proceeding. Furthermore, Alaskan courts may award joint custody for your beloved pet, and include him or her in domestic violence protective orders.
Despite this new law, Virginia courts still treat animals like all other property during divorce. However, there is hope. If both parties want to avoid losing legal rights to their pet, they may enter into an agreement determining how they will share custody of their pets.