Even though many people think of their pet as just like a child, the law does not necessarily agree with this. Regardless, trying to figure out what happens to your pet when you get a divorce in Arizona can be frustrating, especially if you and your spouse both feel strong ties to your animals. With more than 71 million Americans owning pets, though, dealing with pets post-divorce is becoming increasingly common. Read on for some tips about how to handle this situation.

Be Aware of the Impact

Even though you might feel like your beloved pet is part of the family, the law essentially sees a pet as property much like the home or cars. It is important to remember that engaging in a legal battle over a pet can have negative implications for you and the animal. Divorce can take a toll on your pet by introducing more stressful situations.  It can also be a costly endeavor with a high risk of the issue not turning out the way you’d prefer. This is why you might be better off thinking about what is really best for you and for the pet. Trying to use the pet as a tool in negotiating a divorce settlement can be difficult and frustrating.

Make sure you have fully considered how this will influence you, your former spouse, any children, and the pet. Children may struggle to adjust to life without the pet if the non-custodial parent receives the pet, and this may make things much more difficult for children. A pet might also develop signs of stress or depression. Some couples who live close together may even be able to work out a visitation schedule where they share time with the pet. In recent years, this has increased in popularity and become a viable option if you and your spouse can cooperate.  It is also a popular option in cases involving children as the pet will transition between homes right along with the children on the same schedule.

Determine Where the Pet Will Be Happiest

If both parties are moving away from one another, the decision about where the pet should live is one that needs to be addressed fairly quickly. This is not an easy decision to come to, but may involve who provides more care for the pet or who originally obtained the pet. Legally, courts might opt to consider the best interests of the pet, too, but this can be a gamble if you go this route as most courts will not engage in this analysis.

Try to Reach Agreement on Your Own

While the court might consider what to do with your pet, there is no guarantee this is the best option for you or the animal. Leaving the decision up to someone else who does not know your circumstances or your animal as well as you do could lead to a bad outcome. Where possible, try to work this out with your former spouse. You might not agree on other aspects of the divorce, but this is one area where you should try and come together for the sake of the pet. If one parent will have primary custody of the children, and the kids are close to the pet, this can make the decision easier. Having an Arizona family lawyer advise you about your options and help you make informed decisions can be very helpful during this time.


This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice regarding I’m Getting Divorced: What About My Pet?, or any other family law issue,  please feel free to contact Steven H. Everts at 480.461.5300,  log on to udallshumway.com, or contact an attorney in your area. Udall Shumway PLC is located in Mesa, Arizona and is a full service law firm. We assist Individuals, families, businesses, schools and municipalities in Mesa and the Phoenix/East Valley.