Pets Are An Emotional Factor In Property Division

During divorce proceedings, it is natural for couples to disagree over how to divide their marital property. Furniture, real estate, retirement funds and other assets may become a battleground if the couple cannot resolve the matter out of court. However, one area of property division that often has as much emotional trauma as child custody is how to divide the ownership of the family pet.

Washington does not have pet custody laws when it comes to divorce, although a few states have moved in that direction. In a divorce, pets are considered property, which means the courts treat them according to their monetary value even though the owners may have a deep emotional attachment. It is not unusual for a couple to spend a great deal of money in litigation against each other to obtain the pet during property division.

More courts across the country are beginning to see the emotional value of pets. A judge may include the pet as part of child custody arrangements or order a custody schedule if the couple has no child. However, not every judge is willing to put that much time into a decision over a pet and may instead order the animal to be sold if the parties can’t reach their own agreement.

Those pet owners going through divorce must understand how complicated matters can be if their spouses decide to fight them for the animal during property division. If they cannot reach a decision together, they may be at the mercy of a painful court order. Fighting for one’s rights is challenging during every phase of 

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The Law Offices of Stacy D. Heard, PLLC

Stacy Heard is an accomplished and well-respected family law attorney in Seattle, Washington who has served clients for over 20 years. Stacy specializes in matrimonial and family law. She handles matters of divorce, high-conflict parenting plan/child custody issues, international custody disputes and Hague Convention cases, complex financial issues, relocation, restraining orders, child support, and modifications of Parenting Plans and Child Support Orders.