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How to handle pet custody through divorce mediation

While child custody is commonly discussed in family law, one issue that gets less coverage is custody of pets. However, this issue comes up in many divorce cases across Louisiana and the United States. Through divorce mediation, these issues can often result in joint custody agreements, financial support agreements for vet bills and other negotiated settlements.

In the United States, 68 percent of households own a pet. When divorce occurs in those households, judges need to act according to state law. For example, in some states judges can take the animal’s welfare into consideration in a pet custody case, while in others animals are treated as property. Settlements also often cover issues such as how to exchange the animal in the case of shared custody or whether one partner should help with vet bills.

Often, these issues are settled through divorce mediation rather than in a courtroom. However, if things do make it to court, Louisiana judges need to consider several things in a pet custody case, including how the pet was purchased and whether it should be considered community property. Prenuptial agreements can also specify who gets the pet in the case of a split. The applicable law also states that a judge can award the pet to the person who has been abused if domestic violence is involved in the divorce.

There are many ways the custody of a pet can be determined through divorce mediation or court proceedings. Whichever route is taken, discussing both financial support and custody for the animal is a good idea. Seeking a lawyer with a clear understanding of how these issues are considered under Louisiana law is also a critical step for anyone who is concerned about the future of a shared pet in a divorce or breakup.

Source:, “You won’t believe how people battle over their dogs in a divorce“, Alisa Wolfson, Feb. 24, 2018

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