Heartache In Divorce – Who Gets Custody Of The Pets?

There is no way around it. Heartache comes with divorce. Even if both spouses agree that the divorce is needed, watching your dreams and plans being ripped apart hurts. If there are children involved, you expect to have custody battles that will determine where they will live and who the primary caregiver will be. It may surprise you to find the same feelings are attached to the family pets.

Why would we include a pet in our divorce?

Love and support

Pets are an important part of our lives. We love them and care for their needs. They are an endless source of support and love. No matter what we are going through, they are there. When we are sick, they are near. When we are angry and acting like a child, they don’t care. When we are happy, they celebrate with us. So, when we are facing a painful life situation such as divorce, we turn to them for comfort. However, if your spouse has turned to them as well and will not let you see them, you could go into emotional shock. This is why people turn to their attorneys to include custody of our pets in our divorce.

Instrument of pain

Some people are just nasty. Some spouses are so angry and so determined to hurt their ex-partner that they will hold on to the pets for revenge. They know how much the pets mean to their ex and they know fighting in court for custody of the pet can be expensive. They may work out an agreement before the divorce is complete, only to break the terms later.

There are people who have agreed to turn over the pets or share custody of the pets outside the terms of the divorce only to sell or give away the pets later. If there are pets involved, people should include them in the divorce so they are protected by the courts.

When both spouses love the pet

The legal systems are overwhelmed with high divorce rates globally. They must consider what is fair and legal for both parents. They must decide what is best for the children in the home. Adding the loss of beloved pets into the mix for children who are facing confusion and fear and pain should not fall upon the shoulders of the courts. Adult parents should be able to put the needs of children and animals before their own feelings. Letting an attorney step in and provide a solution is the next best option. Pets are living and breathing beings and their lives matter. If parents do not take either option, the court will step in, but rarely will the adults be happy with the decision.

But, it’s MY dog!

There are times when one spouse can argue successfully that the dog (or other pet) belongs only to them. Here are some things that will sway the judge to rule that you and only you own the animal:

  • You owned the animal and brought it into the home with you
  • You paid for the animal with your own money and can provide proof
  • You paid for all the needs of the animal such as
    • Veterinarian bills
    • Food
    • Annual shots
    • Grooming
    • Travel or kenneling while you were away
    • Licenses
  • How long have you had the pet?
  • Who spends the most time with the pet?
  • Who has custody of the children and are they attached to the pet??
  • Has the pet ever been in a home with only one resident?
  • Would it be possible to have visitation with the pet and the children on the same days?

Looking ahead

It is difficult to predict what the life of a divorced person will look like in a year or 5-years. Generally, one parent has more hands-on experience with the children and one has visitation. Your life may take you in a whole new direction. You may be promoted and move to another city. Your visitation may be entirely possible, but bringing an animal back and forth on a plane or by car could be hard to manage. You may have to work more hours to cover expenses or change carers. You may find it difficult to fit in getting your pet to the vet, to get him exercised while handling school, and social lives for growing kids. Before you put a lot of effort and money into fighting for your pet, consider being flexible enough to give yourself some growing room. You are facing a new world. Do not paint yourself into a corner.

You will be okay. A divorce is not the end of the world. Let your attorney fight your battle for you. That’s what he is there for. Life is not going to be the same. Give yourself time to discover a new normal.

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