Who Gets the Dog? How Family Pets Are Handled During Divorce

Pets are truly invaluable, especially when you’re going through something as emotionally trying as divorce. Their unconditional love and affection is exactly what you need as you heal—but what happens if both parties think they deserve the family pets? Since Indiana does not yet have laws in place that protect pets’ rights and their best interests, pets are treated as personal property in divorce.

Assessing the Value of a Pet

For loving pet owners, the idea of pets having no more value in court than a kitchen table or laptop can be tough to handle. In Indiana, all marital property is combined and distributed in a fair way. This involves assessing the value of the pets in question. 

A purebred pet, one that is used for breeding purposes or one that wins money in competition, is likely to have significant financial value. On the other hand, a mixed breed pet from a shelter is likely to have almost no financial value. Since the financial value of a pet is likely much less than the emotional or personal value you attach to it, you may have to give up assets to get your spouse to give up ownership.

Who Has Been Responsible for the Pet?

If a couple is unable to agree who will take ownership of the pets after divorce, it becomes an issue for the court to decide. While there is no law on the books requiring judges to consider the best interests of the pet during a divorce case, many judges do consider who is more equipped to meet the pet’s care needs. To make your case, you may have to provide evidence that shows:

  • That you provide the majority of the pet’s day-to-day care, including feeding, walking, and cleaning
  • That you financially care for the pet by paying for veterinary care, food, and other expenses
  • That you have been the one responsible for taking the pet to the vet
  • That you have a plan to care for the pet when you are out of town or at work for extended periods of time

Several states now have laws that change how pets are handled during divorce. States with these laws look at pets as their own living beings with rights, rather than as personal property. Judges are required to think about who is likely to meet the pet’s care needs and maintain its quality of life when deciding who will get ownership. As this trend moves across the country, Indiana may see a similar law in its statues. Until then, you may have to negotiate for your pet in divorce as you would for any other personal property.


Do you have questions about your divorce and how likely you are to walk away with the assets you want? Turn to Indiana Divorce Lawyers. Our team understands your struggles and we’re dedicated to getting the best possible outcome for you. Schedule your consultation now to get started.

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Indiana Divorce Lawyers, Pastrana LLC

At Indiana Divorce Lawyers, we look at how divorce affects you on every level. We don’t believe in a dry, stoic approach that handles the legal aspects of divorce while leaving you alone to address the complicated emotions and growth that you’re bound to experience. The end of your marriage is a new beginning for you, and we’re ready to walk you through every step.

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