University of Denver

Alaskan Judges Now Assess Well-Being of Family Pets in Divorce Proceedings

IAALS Intern

In every state across the nation, judges in family court regularly deal with challenging custody issues as families proceed through the divorce process. And, recent amendments to Alaska’s divorce laws have added another important custody consideration: pets.

Effective January, 17, 2017, the revised divorce statutes make Alaska the first state in the nation to require that judges take into consideration the well-being of family pets and empower them to assign joint custody. Traditionally most state laws categorize family pets as property, but that categorization misses the mark for some.

“Pets are truly members of our families,” said former Representative Liz Vasquez, who sponsored the bill last year. “We care for them as more than just property. As such, the courts should grant them more consideration. It’s only natural.”

Mark Staines is a second-year law student at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and contributes to IAALS Online. Please direct inquiries about this post to