“Petimony”- Don’t Forget Pets & Divorce!

There are currently over 164 million pets in the United States.  With the divorce rate currently around 40%, it’s safe to say that many people who divorce not only need to divide up their assets and debts, but also need to determine what to do with Spot and Fluffy after a divorce.

In Virginia, pets are considered personal property under the law, leaving them up for equitable distribution, much like Grandma’s silver or the living room rug. Unlike an inanimate object however, a pet requires food, veterinarian care, medicines, vaccines, and boarding, making a pet much harder to “distribute” between parties.

If your pet is a purebred, or unhealthy, or just elderly, he or she could be quite expensive throughout his or her life. What to do when one spouse wants the dog but wants the other spouse to contribute to the dog’s upkeep and wellbeing? What to do when both spouses want the dog? Some courts are turning to visitation schedules and support payments as answers to those questions.

Parties can agree to share time with the pet on a schedule similar to how a child custody arrangement might work. A court can order parties to have visitation with the pet. Likewise, a court can order a party to make monetary payments to the custodial pet owner- “petimony”- in order to provide for the pet’s needs.

If you are contemplating a divorce, and need help determining what to do with your pet, call us at 804-423-1382.