Pets in Divorce – Don’t Forget about Rover

While many people view their pets as furry members of the family, the courts in Washington view domestic pets (such as dogs and cats) as personal property. Unlike children, where a parenting plan is established and custody may be shared. Pets are generally given to one party or the other; with courts dividing ownership along with the family home, car, and other personal property.


As in Washington, Rhode Island currently recognizes that pets are property, to be divided without necessarily regarding the animal’s welfare in determining who the pet is slated to live with. However, a new law has been proposed to change that.

The Seattle Times published an article this week about the new law being proposed in Rhode Island to treat pets a little less like property in a divorce proceeding. The law would require that judges take into account the best interest of the animals when determining who would get custody of them during a divorce. This is not a new idea, with Alaska first paving the way for a pet “custody” over pet “property” approach; requiring the court to bear the pet’s interest in mind when determining who would watch over them.


If you are concerned about pet custody in your divorce, your first stop should be to speak with an experienced legal team about your family law options; contact Elise Buie Family Law Group, PLLC. We provide a free consultation regarding your family law issues. Your attorney will be able to review the facts of your case and discuss your options with you. It is often in the divorcing pet owners’ (and the pet’s) best interest to reach an agreement amicably. For more about collaborative divorce, visit our website.

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