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Establishing Custody of a Shared Pet After A Breakup or Divorce

Going through a divorce or breakup is a difficult process no matter what the circumstances may be. However, if you and your ex partner share a pet, the emotional results can be even more devastating. In this article we will explore the process and impact of establishing custody of a pet after a couple splits. 

Impacts Losing Your Dog After a Divorce or Breakup

For many dog lovers, it comes as no surprise that humans forge a deep and emotional bond with the pets in their lives. In fact, when you begin to hangout with your pattern’s dogs and pets, a definite psychological bond can be formed. Whether the dog was purchased before the relationship began, or as a shared pet, the resulting bond can feel the same. 

Unfortunately, when the relationship comes to an end, the person left without the pet can feel legitimate grief and loneliness as if they had lost a pet. Furthermore, your course of action depends greatly on where in the country you live, due to differing pet custody laws across the nation. 

Pet Custody Laws


If you and your ex partner live in states like California, the pet is not necessarily considered personal property. This means that pets, like dogs and cats, would be viewed in a family law court and both parties could enter into a custody agreement. Through a process that mimics child custody agreements (albeit, much less complex in most cases) both parties can reach an agreement that keeps the pet’s best interests in mind. 

However, if you and your ex enter into a shared pet custody agreement, be sure to abide by that agreement to the T. Since this is a legally binding document, withholding the dog or other pet from their owner could be viewed as a form of kidnapping by California law. 


Alternatively, states like Arizona view pets simply as personal property. This does not allow a grieving ex spouse many options. Essentially, if you did not purchase the pet, then you have no rights to ownership after the relationship dissolves. You and your ex partner can use mediation and other tactics to reach an informal pet custody agreement, but the courts cannot mandate shared custody of the pet like they can in California and other states. 

In the event that your ex has no interest in a pet custody agreement, coming to terms with losing a pet in your life can be quite difficult. But using a good coping mechanism is important, because attempting to take the pet despite legal precedent could result in a theft charge. According to Arizona criminal defense lawyers at Stewart Law Group, a class 6 charge could carry fines up to $2,000.

Final Thoughts 

Breakups are never easy, and they can be especially emotional if a pet is involved. Depending on where you live at the time of the breakup, you may be able to use a pet custody agreement to still see them. However, if that is not an option for you, here are some resources to help you grieve the situation. 

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