Select Page

Divorce can shake up an entire family’s sense of wellbeing. It’s difficult enough to determine child custody arrangements, alimony payments, asset divisions, and who gets to keep the house. Add a furry family member to the list of things to divide between households, and you might find some serious interpersonal divisions added to the mix.

Deciding who gets the family pets is an emotionally charged experience. Whether it’s a dog, a cat, or a mix of animals, the emotional bonds and attachment to a pet can be intense, and create a schism in an otherwise smooth or peaceful transition.

Finding ways to compromise

While pet custody doesn’t fall under the same laws of child custody, with the help of an attorney, there are nevertheless ways to obtain a court order that dictates the terms of pet ownership. However, getting to a point of agreement or acceptance is half the battle. The following are a few ways to help diffuse a conflict over who keeps which pets:

  1. Hire a mediator to assist in the discussion of your pet’s ownership. The presence of a professional third party can help facilitate a more rational discussion of the problem.
  2. Consider whose personal needs a pet can best meet. If one parent gets full custody of the kids and the other only gets occasional visitation, it might make sense for the second parent to keep the dog for companionship, provided he or she is stable enough.
  3. Determine how the pet’s financial needs can be met. If one party in a divorce earns significantly less than the other, that doesn’t mean the higher earner is automatically entitled to the pets. However, if one partner is struggling significantly, he or she might either consider taking only one pet if there are many, or focusing on meeting his or her short-term financial needs rather than spending on a pet.
  4. Consider whether new living spaces are viable. Obviously, if one person moves into a studio apartment, the family Great Dane can’t come along. Breed and pet restrictions in apartments can impact pet custody.

It may be too painful for one person to part ways with a pet, so this decision should never be hastily forced. If the right accommodations can be made, pet custody can even become a joint effort. It’s just one of many ways you must learn to compromise with your ex-spouse.