Are pets considered property?

Everyone knows that pets become family for many people and it may seem strange to know that the courts simply see them as property. But they do.

In case of a divorce, outside of an agreement of the parties, the court will look at the pets just like they would look at any other property; cars, homes, accounts, etc. The court will decide who will get the pets as their own separate property. Some couples have created and courts have granted visitation rights and custody schedules for pets of divorce. However, that may change.

In a new Division I Opinion out today, In Re Marriage of Niemi (Division 1 No. 82549-6-1, 10/4/21) , it was ruled that visitation with the couple’s dogs should not have be awarded. When the parties in the above divorced, the trial court awarded visitation of the couple’s dogs to Mariah while ownership went to Douglas. That ruling was overturned today. “Because the trial court exceeded its authority in granting Mariah visitation of the dogs it awarded to Douglas as his separate property, we reverse and remand for the trial court to strike the provisions of the dissolution decree related to visitation and shared maintenance costs for Kona and Mr. Bear.”

First, Kona and Mr. Bear sound like some really cute dogs with great names. Unfortunately, this ruling can cause many couples distress, as now there is an argument to be made that once a couple splits there is no right to visitation or custody of the pets. It may be best to try to work out an arrangement with your future ex, you know, for the sake of the pets.

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