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If you’re divorcing, it’s time to address the issue of your pets

On Behalf of | Apr 21, 2024 | Property Division

Pets are often treasured by their families. However, during a potentially tumultuous divorce process, the question of who gets custody of the pets – or how their needs should be addressed whatsoever – can become a contentious issue. Partially due to the stress of this kind of situation, concerns about pets being left at shelters in the wake of divorces have recently become increasingly visible issues of note.

As such, addressing pet ownership thoughtfully during a divorce is important. Doing so can help to better ensure that these cherished animals do not end up in shelters due to disputes between separating spouses.

Considerations to keep in mind

The first step in addressing pet custody concerns during divorce is recognizing the emotional significance of pets. Unlike other assets, pets have emotional bonds with their owners and can experience stress during upheavals. As such, when deciding on pet custody, the well-being of the animal should be at the forefront of discussions about what should happen next. For example:

  • Living Arrangements: Who has a living situation more suited to pet ownership? Consider factors like space, a yard for exercise, proximity to parks (if applicable) and the presence of other animals.
  • Work Schedules: Who has more time to care for the pet? Animals require attention and care, including walks, feeding and companionship.
  • Primary Caregiver: Who has taken on the responsibility of caring for the pet during the relationship? The primary caregiver often has a stronger bond with the pet, and maintaining that continuity can be less stressful for the animal.
  • Children’s Attachment: If children are involved, consider their attachment to the pet. Oftentimes, keeping the pet with the children can provide comfort and stability in a period of significant change.

Know that crafting a formal pet agreement can be part of your divorce proceedings. This agreement can detail custody arrangements, visitation rights and financial responsibilities related to the pet’s care. Couples can even decide on sole or joint custody, depending on what is best for the pet. Joint custody can include schedules similar to those used for children, wherein pets spend certain days with one owner and other days with the second.

Whatever you do, simply keep in mind that your pet is your responsibility, so it’s generally better to seek personalized guidance if you are feeling unsure than it is to place your pet in a shelter because you don’t know how to handle the situation post-divorce.