Fido Frenzy! How to Handle the Family Pet(s) and Divorce

25 Aug

When I was taking my Divorce Mediation coursework, I had a hard time relating to the lessons about pets and divorce. You see, at the time, I wasn’t a pet owner, and I had difficulty understanding how someone can become so wrought with anxiety over the fate of a family pet.

But, now that our beloved, “Nacho,” has come into our home, I completely understand.

For many pet owners, the family pet or pets are members of the family, on a lesser-scale than children, of course. But, they’re important all the same. And, for couples who don’t have any “human” children, pets ARE their children (of sorts).dogs

So, when a divorce happens, you can imagine all the stress and anxiety surrounding the fate of the family pet. Here are a few tips to remember if you find yourself fighting over who gets which pet during divorce:

  • Ask yourself: Is it really about the pet(s)?: As with a lot of issues surrounding divorce, it’s easy to confuse one thing with another. When it comes to splitting up your pet(s), ask yourself if you really want the pet – or if you just want to “hurt” your ex- by taking him/her.
  • Remember your pet has feelings, too: Sure, no one knows for sure what pets REALLY feel, but remember that divorce can be tough on him/her, too. Living in a high conflict home can be stressful and cause anxiety for your pet, so remember to keep your cool and keep conflict low, if possible.
  • Who had who first?: If it comes to a decision by a judge, remember that pets can be considered property. So, whoever had Fido first will likely be awarded custody of the pet. If you acquired the pet when you were married, that’s a different story…
  • Put your pet first: If you acquired the pet while you were married, you’ll need to come to an agreement about custody of the animal (if a judge doesn’t do it for you, that is). It’s important to do what’s best for your pet. If your pet has a closer relationship to one person, if one person can provide a better home, or if one person has more time and energy to spend with a pet, THAT person should get the pet.

Who knew your beloved family pet could be caught “in the middle” of a divorce. But, it happens. A lot. So, remember to put your pet’s needs ahead of your own, and you will always make the right choice.


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