Who Gets The Dog In A Washington State Divorce?

Divorce Attorney Helping Divorcing Couples in Washington Settle Matters with Pets

In many cases, material goods are either split down the middle during divorce, or sometimes sold so that the profits can be evenly split. But when it comes to dogs, cats, and other family pets, figuring out who gets what after a split can be extremely difficult, emotional, and even acrimonious. It’s common for one or both parties to have a deep emotional connection to each pet and for both parties to want to keep the pet after a divorce. In many cases, the best option is for the couple to work together to find a solution that is right for their family instead of leaving the decision in a judge’s hands.

Let’s take a closer look.

The Important Differences Between Child Custody & Pet Custody

In Washington State, as in other jurisdictions, pets are considered property, just like your house, your car, or your jewelry. Pets are not in any way treated like the children of the couple–a court does not act in the pet’s best interest and does not spend time working on pet custody arrangements. Instead, if left up to a judge, pet custody is given to one person or the other, possibly based on who currently provides more care for the pet. If there is more than one pet, the judge will likely divide the animals equally between the pair. If a pet was owned by one person before the couple married, that person will likely get possession of the pet.

If a couple wants to create a joint custody plan so that both parties get to spend time with the animal or animals, they should create their own, either during mediation or with the help of their attorneys. Creating a joint custody plan that everyone is agreeable to can be best for the couple and their families as well as best for the pets.

Creating a Pet Care & Custody Plan After Divorce

Outside of the courtroom, divorcing couples can get as creative as they like when creating a pet care and custody plan. In the past, couples have decided on a wide variety of solutions including:

  • One person has the pet during the week, the other during the weekend and/or vacations.
  • The pet is shared on a weekly basis.
  • The pet moves residences once every six months.
  • The pet moves to a third owner, and both former owners get to visit.
  • The pet follows the children and their parenting plan.
  • The pet lives with one owner but is allowed visits with the former owner (such as a daily or weekly walk).

It’s important to remember that pets are also a responsibility and a piece of property that costs a significant amount of money. In addition to deciding where your pet will stay and when, it is equally important to decide who will pay for expenses, which could include:

  • Food
  • Vet bills
  • Grooming
  • Bedding and toys
  • Boarding
  • Walking

Speak to a Washington Divorce Attorney Today About Your Case

Separating your life from someone else’s life can be emotional, overwhelming, and stressful. At Blado Kiger Bolan, PS, we are here to make the process as efficient and painless as possible, even when it comes to solving the problem of who gets the pets. Call us today at (253) 470-2356 or fill out our short online contact form to get the legal help you need to get what you deserve.

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