What Are My Legal Rights When It Comes To My Pets In A Divorce?

Who gets the pet in a divorce? This is an all-too-common question for people going through a divorce in the state of Washington.

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yakima dme canva

What Does Washington State Law Say About Dogs In A Divorce Custody Battle?

While it may not be easy to answer, there are some important factors to consider when determining who legally gets the dog or other pet in a Washington State divorce.

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rik mikals

My wife has often joked that if we divorced she'd take the dogs because she knows taking the pups would upset me. I'd be one of those that wouldn't let my dogs go for any reason.

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So if you are really going through a divorce, what does Washington State law says about custody of the family pets

Let’s take a look at what you need to know.

Divorce Law Concerning Pets in Washington State

In the state of Washington, pets are considered personal property and are subject to the same laws as any other property owned by one or both spouses during the marriage.

As such, they must be divided between spouses in accordance with Washington's community property rules.

In most cases, this means that if either spouse owned the pet prior to getting married or received it as a gift during the marriage, that person would keep the pet after the divorce.

However, if both spouses acquired the pet together during their marriage, then it is considered marital property and must be divided equitably between them.


When deciding who gets ownership of a pet in a divorce case, courts will consider which spouse has had primary caregiving responsibilities for the animal and which spouse can provide adequate care for it going forward.

Courts want to ensure that pets are placed with someone who can provide them with proper care and attention after the divorce is finalized.

If neither spouse is able to adequately care for the animal or if both parties agree that neither should have custody of it, then courts may order that custody be awarded to another individual or organization instead.

Custody Agreements

It is also possible for couples going through divorce proceedings to come up with their own agreement about who should get custody of any pets they own together. Couples can submit their proposed arrangement to court and ask that it be included as part of their overall settlement agreement—or even incorporated into their parenting plan if children are involved—so that each party can retain legal ownership of certain animals after their divorce is finalized.

Dogs and cats snuggle together

Additionally, couples can also opt to share custody arrangements on an informal basis; however, doing so does not provide either party with legal standing should disputes arise later on down the line.

When determining who legally owns a pet after a divorce, courts will consider factors such as each party’s ability to provide adequate care for it going forward and whether either spouse had primary caregiving responsibilities prior to separation.

Group of dogs playing in the park

Couples can also work together outside of court proceedings to come up with an arrangement regarding ownership rights themselves; however, this does not necessarily provide either party with legal standing should disagreements arise later on down the line.

Ultimately, figuring out who legally owns any pets following a divorce requires careful consideration from everyone involved—including those furry family members.

You can read more details about what to do if you are going through a divorce and don't know who gets the pets here.

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