The Difficulty of Determining Pet Custody


Pet custody issues are becoming increasingly common after a divorce, which is why Pasadena family law attorneys have been following Hamet v. Baker 2014 VT 39. In this Vermont case, a couple could not determine who would keep the family pet after the divorce. They had no minor children and had amicably resolved all other property issues, but neither party was willing to budge on the issue of who should receive their dog.

During the hearing, each party testified to their strong attachment to the animal. The husband was a veterinarian who took the dog to work with him, while the wife regularly took the dog for a walk in the woods near their home and was actively involved in his daily care.

Although the court conceded that either party would give the dog a good life, the husband ended up being awarded the dog based on his balanced attitude towards the animal. The court felt that the routine of going to the clinic was preferable to the wife’s tendency to treat the dog like a human child.

The wife appealed the decision, but the Supreme Court of Vermont affirmed based on two factors: the criteria used to decide custody of the animal were legally appropriate and the family court can’t legally enforce shared custody agreements for animals.

California, like Vermont, considers dogs and other family pets to be personal property. Legally speaking, they are more equivalent to a stereo system or a sofa than a human child. For this reason, most attorneys encourage you to figure out a pet custody arrangement with your former spouse instead of taking your chances with the court. If the case does go to court, the person who brought the pet into the relationship, received the pet as a gift, or had the pet registered in his or her name as a purebred animal would likely get custody. Parents with custody of minor children will usually receive family pets because a child’s bond with the animal will be considered most important.

How Can We Help?

Please call our office at (626) 683-8113 or email us at if you are in need of legal representation during your divorce. Our Pasadena family law lawyers are eager to advocate for your interests throughout the divorce process.