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Your pet and property: Pets and divorce

Divorcing when you have pets can be a nightmare, especially if they were purchased during your marriage. Unlike in some other states, pets are still considered to be personal property in Virginia. That means that they’re subject to property division, just like other assets.

This, of course, is much more difficult to handle than just assessing and dividing furniture or a home. A pet is a living animal, and both parties may have invested time and effort into raising their pet. Many people today treat pets as if they’re children, too, so the thought of not seeing your pet could be extremely sad.

While it’s unconventional, you can set up a custody schedule for your pet

Even though this isn’t something that a lot of people do, it’s possible to set up a custody schedule for your pet despite the court viewing a pet as a personal item. For example, you and your ex-spouse might decide to keep your pet for a week at a time, so that you both get to raise them and spend time with them in the future. This works particularly well if you’re both on good terms with one another, since you will need to be in contact to transfer your pet into the other party’s custody.

If you don’t think that a custody schedule is going to work, then you need to approach the situation as a business person. What would it take to buy out your spouse’s “share” of your pet? Your pet may only be worth a few hundred or thousand dollars in the eyes of the court, and that’s the value that will be considered. If you’re very eager to keep your pet, you might consider “sweetening the deal” with an asset you’re not interested in keeping that you know the other party wants.

Remember, your pet needs to be cared for after a divorce. In the case that neither of you have the time or facility to provide for your pet, it may be a better choice to avoid fighting over your pet and to place it in the care of a third party, like someone who is a trusted friend. That way, your pet will be cared for and you will be able to focus on resolving your divorce without the emotional aspect of dividing time with your pet or losing your pet completely.

J. Emmette Pilgreen IV
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