Divorce and Dogs

Many people consider their pets family members, but do pets have any rights during a divorce?
As of January 1, 2019, California courts can determine the custody of pets in divorce cases. Certain
owners could receive physical custody of the animal and gain legal custody, or the right to make certain
decisions about the care of the pet. The Bill codified the “Best Interest of the Pet” much like the “Best
Interest of the Child” standard, and considers the well-being of the pet. Two other states previously
enacted similar laws, Alaska and Illinois. In Illinois, only companion animals, as opposed to service
animals, are subject to decrees which determine partial or joint custody.

In South Carolina, pets are treated like property during a divorce. This means the court only views your
four-legged friend as a piece of chattel. The court can consider who keeps the furry friend, but typically,
South Carolina courts do not wish to delve into more detailed rulings about how share a pet. The court
may consider evidence of legal ownership, such as proof of purchase or an adoption certificate.
Sometimes spouses come to an agreement that permits a week to week arrangement. Other times, the
animal is used as a bargaining chip in negotiations, which is a poor strategy with a pet as much as it is
with children.

If you are facing divorce, you might want to consider whether you want the attachment to your pet to
keep you attached to your spouse. A shared arrangement could keep you in communication with an ex
for years. On the other hand, having (wo)man’s best friend by your side could be a comfort during a
difficult divorce.

Contact a qualified divorce attorney to determine how you and Fluffy may fare during a South Carolina
divorce at 864-804-6330.