Category: Pets in divorce

Why Don’t All Divorced Wives Get Half of Their Husbands’ Property?

Because divorce is not about a spouse (man or woman) getting “half of everything”.

Depending upon whether a state is a “community property” state or an “equitable distribution” state, here is how property is divided between spouses in a divorce:

A community-property state is state in which spouses hold property that is acquired during marriage (other than property acquired by one spouse by inheritance, devise, or gift) as community property. Otherwise stated, all property that is acquired during the marriage by either spouse (other than property acquired by one spouse by inheritance, devise, or gift) or by both spouses together is jointly and equally owned and will be presumed to be divided in divorce equally between the divorcing spouses. Nine states are community property states: Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin.

An equitable distribution state seeks to divide property in divorce in a fair, but not necessarily equal, manner. An equitable property state court can divide property between the spouses regardless of who holds title to the property. The courts consider many factors in awarding property, including (but not limited to) a spouse’s monetary contributions, nonmonetary assistance to a spouse’s career or earning potential, the efforts of each spouse during the marriage, the length of the marriage, whether the property was acquired before or after marriage, and whether the property acquired by one spouse by inheritance, devise, or gift. The court may take into account the relative earning capacity of the spouses and the fault of either spouse (See Black’s Law Dictionary, 11th ed.). Equitable distribution is applied in the non-community property states.

So, does a spouse “get half of everything” in divorce? Possibly, but not always, and now you know why.

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

Why don’t all divorced wives get half of their husbands’ property? – Husbands and wives – Quora

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How do you get pet custody after a breakup?

I cannot speak on what the law is in every jurisdiction, but according to Utah (Utah is where I practice divorce and family law), the answers are: 

If by “breakup” you mean the breakup of a marriage by divorce: 

Pets are property, and so they are treated like property, although because they are living creatures they are not treated as a coffee table or money in a bank account would be, obviously. 

And usually pets are not an asset but are more of a liability. In other words, while I can sell a used coffee table and while I can spend my half of the money I was awarded out of the joint marital bank account, owning and caring for a pet costs money. If one spouse is willing to take on the liability associated with caring for a pet and the other spouse is not, then who gets the dog or cat or iguana won’t be in dispute. 

But if both spouses love the dog and both of them want to keep the dog for himself/herself, then who is awarded this particular piece of property can lead to a vicious and expensive fight. We can’t split the dog in half, as we could with money in the bank. But we could award one spouse the dog and then compensate the other spouse with an award of other marital property equal to the value of the dog. That often happens. 

But what about the intangible factors of pet ownership? While I can go out and buy a replacement coffee table if my spouse gets in divorce the one we bought together, it’s not as easy simply to buy a replacement dog. People become emotionally attached to pets and certain kinds of pets (especially dogs, I hear), and that emotional bond is often unique to that animal. Just as losing a child is not “cured” simply by adopting a “new” one, the relationship one formed with a pet is sometimes impossible to replace like one would replace a lightbulb. 

Still, there is only so much a court can do when faced with who gets Fido. What options are there? 

If the court decides that one spouse must be awarded the sole ownership and control of the pet, then the court will usually award the pet to one spouse and award the other spouse marital property of equal value. 

If the court decides that the parties to the divorce will “share custody” of the pet as if it were a child who spends time in the custody of both parents, the court can do that too. The court could order that Fido spends a week with ex-wife, then a week with ex-husband (or impose some other schedule). 

If by “breakup” you mean the breakup of a cohabitant (unmarried) relationship: 

If two people cohabit (that means “live together and have a sexual relationship without being married”), and if during that relationship: 

  • the couple both contribute money toward the purchase of a dog (or cat, or iguana, etc.) so that it’s a joint purchase and they are co-owners, and then the couple breaks up and they can’t agree who gets to keep the dog, then they could go to court to have the matter resolved. The judge could either order the dog sold and the proceeds of sale divided equally between the owners or award the dog to one of the parties and order that party pay the other half the value of the dog. 


  • one member of the couple buys a dog to which the other member of the couple becomes attached, and then the couple breaks up, the other member of the couple has no ownership rights in the pet. 

Had the couple been married when the pet was purchased—even if it was not a joint purchase—then because the couple was married when the property (i.e., the pet) was acquired, the pet is marital property. But when a couple is not married, if one member of the couple purchases something in his/her individual/separate capacity, then that person is the only owner. It’s not “joint” property. 

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277  

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Have you, or someone you know, ever had to share joint custody of a pet due to a breakup/divorce? If so, how did that work out? Was the time actually 50/50?

Many married couples are now foregoing having children but still feel a need for caring for something other than themselves individually and for each other, and so they get a pet or pets. They truly love these pets. They honestly see these animals as a part of the family. 

Now just because devoted pet owners perceive and treat their pets the same as they would a child or almost the same as they would treat a child does not elevate their pets to the status of children. 

Nevertheless, one can easily provide for shared joint custody of pets in a divorce settlement and decree. I have prepared such settlements and decrees myself. 

Just as there are some parents who refuse to set aside their animosity for one another for the sake of the children when it comes to exercising joint custody of their children, there are divorced pet owners who act the same way. Such as: 

  • using the ex-spouse’s love for the pet as a way of tormenting the ex-spouse by: 
    • withholding shared custody of the pet; 
    • abusing and neglecting and otherwise mistreating the pet; 
  • failing and refusing to notify one’s ex-spouse about the pet’s health and healthcare needs, then contriving to accuse the ex-spouse of abusing or neglecting the pet, either as a way of falsely making the ex-spouse look like a criminal or simply as a way of falsely making the ex-spouse feel like a miserable failure; 
  • using the shared connection to the pet as a way of insinuating oneself into the ex-spouse’s life as a newly single person (refusing to move on, by using the pet as a pretext to maintain a relationship—even a dysfunctional and toxic relationship—with the ex-spouse, even when the ex-spouse clearly doesn’t want such a thing).

So it’s really not a question of whether pets are hard to share joint custody of, it’s a question of whether each ex-spouse can put the interests of their pets before his/her own individual self-interest. 

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277  

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