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Who Gets Custody Of Pets In A Leesburg Divorce?


Pets are often considered beloved family members and treated like children by their owners. As a result, custody of pets may be a major issue in your divorce. Our Leesburg divorce attorney explains how state laws apply and factors that can influence your rights in this situation.

Pets as Property in Virginia Divorce

Pets are considered property under the Virginia Code. If you acquired a dog, cat, bird, or other animal during the course of your marriage, they may be subject to equitable distribution.

Equitable distribution means that rather than splitting everything equally between you and your spouse, property and assets are divided on a fair and reasonable basis. When it comes to pets, issues that are likely to be raised during these proceedings include:

  • The financial value of the pet: If you own an exotic animal or a purebred pet, they can be worth significant amounts of money;
  • The total amount of other property and assets involved: Whether your pet holds financial or merely sentimental value, it will be added to the total of other property and assets to be divided.
  • Your willingness to negotiate: You may be able to get sole custody of your pet if you are willing to negotiate on other items.
  • The practicality of shared ownership: While you cannot divide or distribute interest in a pet the same as you would other property or assets, you may be able to negotiate shared ownership.

Factors to Consider When Negotiating for Pets 

When filing for a divorce through the Loudoun County Court, it is important to have your attorney include access and ownership of pets in your divorce petition. They should be included in financial affidavits filed in your case, with details regarding their financial worth, sentimental value, and cost of veterinary care, food, and general upkeep.

While pets are considered property in a Virginia divorce, negotiations are often similar to child custody proceedings. Factors that could influence any settlements or final court orders include:

  • Each party’s current and prior relationship with the pet;
  • Each party’s ability to nurture the pet and provide for their financial needs;
  • If there are children from your marriage, their relationship with the pet and child custody arrangements are factors the court will likely consider;
  • Whether your pet serves as an emotional support or service animal for you or your spouse or otherwise provided protection;
  • Any accusations of abuse, neglect, or general mistreatment.

Depending on the exact circumstances, you may even be entitled to a certain amount of support for your pet if you are granted full custody.

Contact Our Leesburg Divorce Attorney Today

It is natural to have concerns about how your pets will be dealt with in Virginia divorce proceedings. Not getting the desired outcome can make it even harder for you and any children involved to adjust once a final divorce order is issued. To protect your rights in this situation, reach out to Schwartz Kalina, PLLC. Contact our Leesburg divorce attorneys and request a consultation to discuss your options today.


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