Who gets Custody of the Dog?

While many people would laugh at the question of who gets custody of the family pets in times of divorce, those “pet parents” who love their animals unconditionally would not find it funny at all.  In an increasing number of divorce cases, custody of the family pets is becoming a huge issue.

Many couples are putting off having children until they are older and adopt pets as their “children.”  When this happens, who gets custody of the pets is an important matter for the couple.  Both parties are attached to the animals and want to be with them.  Some couples have even been known to agree to “joint custody” and “visitation” for their pets.  Again, if you are not a pet person, this may seem incredible, but for those involved, losing a pet to divorce is devastating.

In some cases, who gets the family dog is only a power play and a reason for more fighting.  It becomes a “win at any cost” debate instead of what is best for the animals.  Courts will often not make any decisions about animals as they have enough to handle in finding the best situation for the children in the home.  Animals are considered property, like a television, and therefore, they are subject to the equal division of property laws.

If pet custody is an issue with you and your spouse, think about the best interests of the animal, just like you would if it was a child.  Who can spend the most time with the animal?  Who has the funds to take proper care of the pet?  Pets respond to the stress around them so leaving them in a familiar setting would be the best, if that is at all possible.  Keeping pets together that have been raised together is also important.

No matter how badly you want your pets or feel that your ex won’t properly care for them, you simply cannot spend thousands of dollars in court fighting over the animal.  You need to consider what is best for your family and the stress you feel will affect you, your family and your pet.

Dogs can show signs of depression when their home is full of stress.  They may begin to sleep more than usual and don’t want to eat or play.  If you notice these signs in your pet, you really need to consider whether the stress you are putting him/her through is worth it.  It can be harder to let go of the dog because you feel it is the last thing that loves you unconditionally, but you can’t put your life on hold and fight over the dog.  Work out an agreeable solution with your ex and move on with your life.

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