Who Gets the Dog in a Colorado Divorce?


If you have a dog, you are in good company. In fact, the American Veterinary Medical Association reports that almost 40% of U.S. households have at least one dog, and a quarter has a cat. If you are thinking about divorcing your spouse, you likely know that you must divide marital assets. What happens to your furry friend, though?

In the Centennial State, divorcing spouses receive an equitable share of marital wealth. While this standard does not guarantee an even 50/50 split of everything that you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse own, it should leave you with a fair share. Because dogs are living animals, however, you simply cannot physically split them into two equitable pieces. Therefore, you must know how Colorado’s divorce law treats dogs, cats, and other companion animals.

Qualified personal property 

In Colorado, companion animals are personal property. As such, if you and your spouse cannot agree on ownership, a judge is likely to decide for you. Because judges tend to prefer finality over ongoing interactions between divorced individuals, your pet is apt to go to either you or your partner. Still, unlike clothing and other belongings, considered unqualified personal property, companion animals are qualified personal property. This means that a judge may weigh the testimony and other evidence when deciding what to do with your dog.

Ownership factors 

If a judge must decide who gets ownership of your pet, certain factors become important. For example, the judge may consider who primarily cares for the animal. He or she may also want to know whether either spouse has the financial means to support the pet. Either party’s history of pet abuse or neglect may also be relevant.

Because you love your dog, you care about what happens to the animal after you divorce your spouse. By understanding how Colorado law treats pets, you can better plan for proactively addressing your dog’s ownership.