This is an issue that comes up on occasion when negotiating the terms of a Separation Agreement. It may seem silly to people who don’t own a dog, but dog owners often are extremely emotionally attached to their pups and often feel similarly to them as they do about their children.
Virginia treats pets as personal property, no different than your favorite armchair. This means that pets are subject to the same rules regarding property and the court will consider whether the dog is marital property to be divided, or separate property that belongs only to one party. Obviously most dog parents will not want to simply sell the dog and split the proceeds to resolve the matter, which is why it is not unusual to have people ask if it is possible to enter into a visitation schedule for the dog!
The answer to that is Yes! As long as the parties agree, it is possible to specify a visitation schedule for a dog in a Separation Agreement. Other solutions treat the matter the same as they would determine where the children should live, and consider the best interest of the dog. Who is the dog most attached to? Who has more space for the dog to play and run around? Which party is the dog’s primary caregiver?
As with most divorce matters, the best solution is for the parties to negotiate and then agree to in a separation agreement rather than taking the issue in front of a judge.