As all pet owners know, pets become part of your family. Often couples treat their pets like children, and the prospect of never seeing your beloved pet again can just as bad as losing custody of a child.
Research suggest that about 50% of American marriages end in divorce and that 62% of American households include at least one pet. Deciding what happens to the pet is an important factor that divorcing parties must consider.
Unfortunately, divorce courts generally treat pets as property and it is often up to the judge to decide who entitled to said property.
Many couples think they can share custody of a pet, but often it’s extremely impractical. Though our pets feel like children, a joint custody arrangement simply won’t work the same way and typically fail.
So, how do you decide who gets Fido? Here are some things to consider?
Whose pet is it?
If a spouse owned a pet before the marriage, that spouse would be entitled to keeping the pet.
But if the pet became part of the family during the marriage, thing get a bit trickier.
Do Your Kids Love The Pet?
If you have kids and they love the pet, their feelings take priority. The divorce is already difficult for them, so taking away their pet if you don’t have to, would be unfair.
If the pet is important to the children, it should live wherever they live.
While it may be impractical for couples without children to share custody of a pet, if children are involved and are going between households, it could be a good idea for the pet to go with them.
I’ve seen this scenario work, depending on the personality and needs of the pet. Though you will have to make decisions such as who pays vet bills and coordinate on consistent care for the animal.
Where do you live?
Yes, this can be an important factor. Some pets don’t do well with changes in their surroundings. Remember, these times are stressful for all involved, so if you’re the one moving out — and you know Fluffy becomes a quivering mess of nerves when you change the drapes — then leaving the pet behind, though difficult, is likely the best recourse.
What about your work schedule?
Caring for a pet jointly can be much easier than doing it alone, especially if you work long hours. Take an honest look at your schedule and determine if you will really be able to give the pet the care and attention it needs.
Keep in mind that the expense of divorce may require you to work more than you did while you were married.
Can you afford it?
The cost of caring for a pet can be very expensive. From vet visits, medicine, to food and toys, costs can add up. An emergency vet visit can cost hundreds of dollars.
You will most likely start this new chapter in a worse financial position than when you started. You have to make sure these expenses will fit in your budget before you decide to take on the pet.
Who takes care of the pet’s daily needs?
Be honest about who takes care of the animal’s basic daily needs such as feeding, walks, grooming and vet visit. If you don’t usually take care of these things you may find it to be overwhelming to suddenly have to do it on your own.
Think about which of you are best at taking care of these basic needs.
What’s best for the pet?
The most important question to consider is what is best for the pet. Pets need consistency. If one party will move around a lot or have a disrupted routine, they may not be the best owner of the pet. Losing a “member of the pack” will be stressful enough.
Even though you both love it equally, you have to make the decision that allows your pet to live the most comfortable life.
For more information on how to keep your pet in divorce schedule your divorce strategy session today.