Are Pets Considered Personal Property in a Divorce?

June 12, 2018 | By Leslie B. Spoltore

There is no question that pets can be – and often are – beloved members of the family.  Much as we love them, it probably doesn’t surprise anyone to know that in many jurisdictions pets are considered personal property in a divorce.  Delaware is one of those jurisdictions.  As a prior post explained, the Delaware Family Court favors the dividing personal property by the two-list method.  Does that include pets?

In my experience, the issue is not often presented to the Court.  Typically, the parties will agree on who gets to keep the cat or dog.  However, when the question is presented to the Court, it may choose to elect a kinder, gentler approach rather than lumping man’s (and this woman’s) best friend in with the kitchen table.  Take for example, the case of Snyder v. Scott, 1999 WL 1456944 (Del. Fam. Ct. 1999).  In this case, the Delaware Family Court was asked to decide whether the parties’ two dogs should be treated like other household property and included in the two-list method of division.  After hearing testimony from the parties on the importance of the dogs in their lives, the Court concluded:

While the dogs are certainly items of personal property belonging to the parties, the Court believes, because dogs often have greater sentimental or attachment value than they do monetary value, that to include them on the two-list could greatly skew the division of the parties’ personal belongings. In this case, since the dogs have been with Wife since the parties’ separation two years ago and since it may be disruptive to the dogs to remove them from their home in Delaware to Husband’s home in Florida, or even to separate them this late in their lives, Wife shall retain the two dogs but shall pay the sum of $100 to Husband to assist him in purchasing a new pet.

The information contained in this publication should not be construed as legal advice, is not a substitute for legal counsel, and should not be relied on as such. For legal advice or answers to specific questions, please contact one of our attorneys.

Categorized In: Pets

About the Authors

Leslie Spoltore - Wimington divorce lawyer

Leslie B. Spoltore


Delaware Family Law and Commercial Attorney. Leslie focuses her practice on family law along with commercial and corporate litigation. In her family law practice, Leslie assists clients with divorce, adoptions, child support...

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