Who Gets the Dog in a New York Divorce: New York Pet Custody


Pet custody continues to be one of the hottest topics in divorce law.   Divorcing couples will go to war to fight for custody of their beloved dog or cat. Until recently there was no clear standard for pet custody cases; it was not clear whether New York divorce courts would treat dogs and cats like children in a custody case or like personal property.

Recently, as a result of this trend, Alaska became the first state to legally empower judges to consider the well-being of companion animals in divorce cases and award custody of the pet to one of the divorcing parties.

As I have previously written, several courts in New York have been forced to decide custody of dogs in contested divorce cases.   But unlike Alaska, New York courts have established criteria to establish custody of dogs and cats.

New York Pet Custody Criteria

New York courts have expressly held that custody of dogs are not children and that custody of the family pet will not be based on the same standard as child custody.   In child custody cases the most important factor is what are the best interests of this children.

While dogs will not be treated is custody cases like children in New York, they also will not be treated as personal property.  Title alone will not determine pet custody.

Instead, to determine custody of dogs and cats, New York courts will use a "best for all concerned" standard.  In determining which party should obtain custody of the family pet, a court will consider:

  • How the pet was acquired
  • How the pet was cared for during the relationship
  • The actual arrangement between the parties for spending time with a pet after the parties split up.

If you are going through a breakup and have a dog, cat or some other family pet, please contact us or call us (212)-683-9551 to discuss your legal rights.

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