Family, Criminal & Children's Court Attorneys Since 1991

Are you keeping the dog after the divorce?

On Behalf of | Nov 11, 2023 | Property Division |

Many couples treat their pets as if they were their own children. This is especially true for people who have had their pets since they were young. The biggest concern some people have during a divorce is who will get their furry, scaly or feathery friend. 

While it may be obvious who should get the pet in a divorce, the law may see things differently. Here’s what you should know:

Understanding Wisconsin property laws

Because many people consider their pets as part of their family, it can be troubling to learn that Wisconsin laws make it clear that pets are property. In other words, a dog or cat is considered much like a couch or stove. As a result, who the pet goes to after a divorce may become a topic of conversation.

If a pet was owned by a spouse prior to marriage, then the pet may go to that spouse. However, if the pet was purchased or obtained during a marriage, it may be considered a marital asset. This may mean that ownership of the pet will become a topic of discussion between spouses. 

While it would be easiest for a spouse to relinquish ownership of the pet, it’s not always an option. If a decision isn’t made, courts may consider a few factors that will ultimately decide who gets the pet after the divorce. 

For example, the person who purchased the animal may be given ownership. However, the person who feeds, trains, grooms and pays for vet bills may also be considered as the pet’s owner. If a spouse has a history of abusing the pet, it could also sway the court’s judgment. Another thing that courts consider is whether any children have a personal bond with the pet. 

Getting ownership of a pet after a divorce may not be the biggest issue couples face during the process. Child custody, alimony and debts are also things couples should consider. People who get legal help may have a better outcome after their divorce.