Although child custody is often one of the most hotly contested aspects of a divorce, many individuals with and without children also face challenges over what happens to family pets when a marriage dissolves. While normal property can be sold or divided, a beloved pet is irreplaceable. The conversation about what happens to a shared pet can trigger emotions of betrayal, love, and anger all at the same time.

Traditionally, pets have been treated as personal property and are only awarded to one party, but visitation rights is a concept growing in popularity. More couples are also considering what is best for the pet, following the same general guideline as the “best interests of the child” rule being applied in child custody situations.

Some couples are even able to work together to share their time with a pet, trading the animal back and forth. This only works when the couple is committed to working together and when both parties live in close proximity. When both of these factors are in place, however, each party gets the benefit of a continued relationship with the pet and an amicable solution with the other party. As it can be difficult to give up seeing a pet forever, this is one possible solution.

If sharing the pet does not work for you and your former spouse, then you might want to consider mediation. Even a divorce attorney advising you about other aspects of ending the marriage may be able to provide helpful guidance about the options available to you and your former spouse. Deciding what will happen to a family pet is never easy, but with so many options available today you are not limited by the “one size fits all” approach. Determine what is best for your situation by considering the potential for working with your former spouse, if possible.

Jayson Lutzky is a divorce and family court attorney who represents clients in the New York City metropolitan area. Mr. Lutzky offers free in-office consultations at his Bronx office. Call 718-514-6619 to set up your consultation today. Visit to learn more about Mr. Lutzky’s practice.