Washington State Divorces: Who Gets the Pet?

Family pets are often seen as members of the family, and when a couple decides to divorce one of the more difficult decisions is where the pet should live. This can be an emotional decision, especially if both spouses are attached to the family pet. At the Hodgson Law Office, our experienced divorce attorneys in Spokane are prepared to help with this and all other issues that may arise in your divorce. To learn more, schedule a case consultation with our office today.

New Pet Custody Laws

In some states like California, Illinois, and Alaska the courts are recognizing that family pets are valued more than inanimate pieces of furniture, and their feelings should be taken into consideration as well during a divorce. These courts are treating pets like true members of the family and awarding custody appropriately. In some cases, this even means splitting custody between the couple if they cannot agree on who should take the pet in the divorce.

Washington Pet Custody Law

Unfortunately, Washington state has yet to pass a law like those in Illinois or Alaska, and instead, the law treats the family pet as a piece of personal property.

As such, the timing of when the pet was purchased or adopted is often critical to the case. If a spouse acquired the pet prior to the marriage, it is considered separate property and will return to that spouse in a divorce. However, if the pet was acquired after the marriage, it is considered marital property and can be awarded to either spouse in the division of marital property. If the pet is marital property and the couple cannot agree on who should have it, a spouse will need to prove to the court that they deserve to have the pet in the divorce.

Evidence for the Court

There are many ways to show the court that one spouse deserves to take the pet in a divorce. The first is through receipts and other documented evidence. Collect receipts from who purchased food, toys, and veterinary services. Document who took the pet to the veterinary clinic, walked or exercised the pet, fed the pet, and spent the most amount of time with the pet.

If one spouse was neglectful or abusive to the pet, that evidence is also often compelling to the court. Proving that one spouse is the primary caretaker of the pet is typically what the court looks for when determining which spouse should get the pet in a divorce.  

Talk to Our Office Now

To learn more about how pet custody is determined in Washington, talk to our office today. 

At the Hodgson Law Office, we understand how much people love their pets and the emotional importance of keeping the pet after a divorce. For assistance with the issue of pet custody and all other matters pertaining to your Washington divorce, call the office or contact us today to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced Spokane divorce attorneys now.