Is your household one of the 67 percent of homes in the U.S. that includes a pet? If so, and if you're getting divorced, issues regarding your pet may be a central focus. Just as you may have to make some important decisions as a parent regarding child custody and support, it is also critical that you and your spouse agree about pet care.
Pets are technically considered a matter of property division as opposed to custody. However, it is becoming more common for courts to approve agreements between spouses that include written plans for sharing pets. If you or your kids simply can't bear the thought of re-homing your dog, cat or other special family pet, you may be able to execute a plan that provides for the animal's future care and keeps everyone in the family happy as well.
Reasons to keep your pet
The following list includes benefits of owning a pet and also why you might think it is worthwhile to create a pet custody plan rather than find a new home for the animal you and your children love:
- Divorce is a highly emotional experience and, especially regarding children, having a pet can be quite comforting.
- You will already likely be dealing with numerous property division issues, perhaps including selling a house. Why add finding a new home for a pet to the list if you don't have to?
- If your children are able to keep their pet, it helps maintain a sense of normalcy in their lives during a time that is otherwise wrought with upheaval.
- If your kids will be going back and forth between your house and the other parent's, being able to take their pet with them may help ease the transition.
While your divorce does not necessarily have to have long-lasting negative consequences in your children's lives, they will definitely need time to adjust to the fact that both their parents no longer live under the same roof. During this challenging transition, the loss of their pet could result in further emotional distress.
If you and your spouse disagree
What happens if you want to keep the family pet and allow your children to take their pet back and forth between houses, but your ex is not on board with the idea? Or maybe he or she is open to the idea of you keeping the pet but disagrees about who should foot the bill for pet-related expenses, such as food and veterinary costs.
An experienced family law attorney can help guide you through all steps of the divorce process, including determining the best possible pet custody plan for you and your children moving forward.