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Pets and Divorce in Georgia

Divorce can be a hugely stressful time, and sometimes pets can be a large source of added tension. While Georgia courts usually view your pets as property subject to equitable distribution, we understand that to many people, pets are a valuable member of your family. Pets are often treated like children and your kids may have formed significant attachments to them. No matter the case, you will certainly want what’s best for your pets in the event of a divorce.

Over 63 percent of American households own pets and over half of marriages end in divorce. When you put those two statistics together – as well as the recent trend of treating pets like children – you see that pets can be a large issue of contention in many divorce cases. In fact, there have been high asset cases where everything else was worked out, but once it came to the pets, the case went to court.

What can you do to get custody of your pet? Keep the following in mind:

  • Since courts are not likely to treat pets as members of the family, you could be better off crafting your own plan for pet custody/visitation and finances, and getting the court to include it in your settlement. However, keep in mind that the court may not be willing to hear an appeal if this agreement is breached.
  • You can also create a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement to stipulate who will get custody of the pet in the event of divorce.
  • If it is too late to do this and you cannot work out a plan, the court will decide. It will take into consideration several factors:
  • Who brought the pet into the marriage or who purchased it
  • Who cares for the pet: who walks it, feeds it, grooms it, takes it to medical appointments, etc.
  • Are there children that have formed an emotional bond with the pet and with whom will they be living
  • Whose life is better suited to pet ownership (does one party travel a lot, is there enough space in the house, are the finances in order to provide for the pet, etc.)

While the court will most likely not take into consideration the “best interests” of the pet, it will try to be fair to the owners and all of the above factors will play a role in their decision. For the reason that the courts are not basing their decision solely on what is best for your pet, you and your spouse should be cognizant that your pet could suffer emotionally during the divorce, and that you should do everything you can to lessen the stress of the separation; including keeping the pet in familiar surroundings if possible, deciding who is better suited to take care of it, and not separating it from children or other pets in the household.

When facing divorce, seek the advice of an experienced divorce attorney.  Call us at 770-609-1247 to discuss your case with one of our knowledgeable divorce and family law attorneys.