Pet Custody Cases on the Rise


Pasadena family law firms can help with a variety of issues, including pet custody after a divorce. A recent survey of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) found a marked increase in the number of divorcing couples fighting over the custody of a pet during the last five years. The survey found that 27% of lawyers reported an increase in pet custody cases, while 20% said the court is increasingly allowing pets to be seen as an asset during settlement negotiations.

However, it’s estimated that only about 15% of divorces overall involve a pet custody issue. The vast majority of these cases are settled out of court, with less than 5% going to trial.

The reason that so few pet custody cases go to trial may be that one spouse is attempting to use the animal as a bargaining chip. If one spouse knows that his or her ex is very attached to the family pet, threatening to try to gain custody of the animal might seem like a way to negotiate for a larger share of other marital assets. Fortunately, this strategy seldom works when the case is brought before a judge. An experienced judge can tell who is genuinely attached to the animal and who has less noble motives for seeking pet custody.

Interestingly, it appears that divorcing couples are much more attached to their dogs than to other types of animals. Dogs were the subject of 88% of pet custody cases, while cats only made up the basis of 5% of pet custody cases. The remainder includes less common animals like birds or horses.

If you are in the middle of a Pasadena divorce and want to seek custody of your pet, it is helpful to provide records showing that you were the animal's primary caregiver -- such as receipts for grooming, veterinary care, or training classes. You may also submit testimony from neighbors or other individuals who can testify that you were the one who always walked the dog or took him to the park to play.

How Can We Help?

If you are in need of legal representation for your divorce, please call our office at (626) 683-8113 or email us at Our skilled Pasadena divorce attorneys can advocate for your interests throughout the settlement process.