If you bought your pet before you got married, that pet likely gets to stay with you after a divorce. It is not a marital asset, but a separate asset that you brought to the marriage. Your spouse had nothing to do with the purchase and has no ownership rights.
However, things can get complicated if you bought the pet after you were already married, as so many couples do. This makes it a joint purchase. If you get divorced, are you going to be able to keep the pet? What has to happen when you both claim ownership rights?
The legal reality: Pets are property
This gets complicated because the law views pets as property, meaning that they are subjected to the same property division rules used with everything else. What this sometimes means is that the court will simply give one person an asset that is worth the same amount as the pet and the other person will get the pet themselves. For example, a purebred dog may have cost $3,000. If your ex gets the dog, you may get another asset with a similar value, like an entertainment system.
Is that really fair?
You can immediately see how complex and contentious this can become, because you might think of your pet as a part of your family. You love them and have a close relationship. Being given a different asset simply is not the same, even if both the pet and the entertainment system originally cost the same amount of money when you purchased them. You do not think of your pet as property, and so this type of division would be unsatisfactory. You’re not only after a financial split. You want to preserve the relationship with this important pet.
In a situation like this, you and your spouse may have to determine if you want to share ownership or how to move forward. You can share custody if you choose to, though the court will not order you to do so. Be sure you know about all of your legal options so that you can accomplish your most important goals in a divorce.