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Serving Iowa Families Statewide

Who Gets the Pet in an Iowa Divorce?

dog and puppy on grass

As a state with a large number of agricultural professions, Iowa views animals as personal property. When a couple goes into a divorce without a prenuptial agreement, the judge will usually determine how to divide marital assets, including pets.

How a Court Determines Who Gets the Pet

Iowa is a state that practices equitable distribution of property. This means the court will divide a couple’s shared property based on what is the fairest. If a pet was purchased by either spouse before the marriage, it is not marital property but separate property and will stay with the party who originally purchased it.

If a pet was purchased during the marriage, it is marital community property and will be treated as such. While a pet is property, it is still a living being and the court will make considerations when deciding who to award the pet.

These considerations can include:

  • Evidence of either spouse spending money on food, toys, vet bills, grooming, etc.
  • Evidence of either spouse spending more time with the pet.
  • Which spouse has more spare time to reasonably continue caring for the pet.
  • If there are children involved in the divorce, the court may consider which parent has primary custody of the children and award the pet to that parent.

Additionally, if a couple has created a pre- or post-nuptial agreement before they began the divorce process, they may have named which party would retain the pet after a divorce. If this is the case, the court will honor the instructions in the agreement and the pet will go to the party mentioned in the document.

Pet’s Best Interests

If a couple can communicate with each other amicably and divide assets before their divorce ends up in front of the court, they may be able to decide who should retain the responsibility for the pet. When deciding who should keep the pet, the parties should not attempt to do so simply because they are upset with the other party and would like to keep the pet to upset them. But rather, the parties should work out who should keep the pet based on what would work best for the pet. If one party has a special attachment to the animal but has a work schedule that keeps them away from home for most of the day, the pet would likely do better with the other party or who could devote more time to caring for it.

Property Division Advocates

At Hope Law Firm, our attorneys can guide you and your spouse toward a property division plan that will work best for both parties. If you share pets, we can help you determine who would be better equipped at caring for these animals.

To schedule your case evaluation, call our firm at (515) 305-2772 or contact us online today.