Breakups are difficult for everyone, but they’re considerably more difficult when you have to pick who gets to keep your favorite dog or cat. When a relationship ends, how do you decide who gets custody of your pet?
When a relationship splits up, there will obviously be difficult talks. Who owns the sofa? Who is allowed to remain in your apartment? Things get much more tricky when you’ve spent years sharing custody of your pet. Whether you’ve spent years connecting with your partner’s dog or you’ve adopted a kitten together, the notion of abruptly saying goodbye to an animal that’s become a family member is heartbreaking.
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That’s why, when a couple splits up, it’s becoming more normal for pet owners to handle the custody of their joint pet as if it were a kid. It involves creating a custody arrangement for your pet!
In a perfect world, custody agreements are reached peacefully. When only one spouse has the time or space to be the main caregiver for the pet, it might seem as though the choice is made for you. In other circumstances, the couple may stay amicable enough to have joint custody—and benefit from having another equally devoted co-caretaker who is always ready and prepared to look after your pet when you go out of town for the weekend.
Regrettably, not all divorces are this simple. Some divorces may and do result in court disputes over pet custody. Unlike in family law, where numerous variables are considered when determining what is best for a child’s well-being after a divorce, dogs are often not given as much attention. Pets are considered property in most places and will be awarded to whoever has the strongest claim to ownership based on factors such as adoption paperwork, veterinary bills, and information registered on their microchip.
We advocate avoiding legal action wherever feasible and instead having an open talk with your ex about what’s best for your pet.
What is the best custody arrangement for your pet?
When it comes time to form your pet custody arrangement, weigh the benefits and drawbacks of shared or exclusive custody with each spouse for your unique pet. Each dog or cat has different requirements and preferences, and you should think about how each aspect of your custody arrangement will influence them.
The Benefits and Drawbacks of Shared Pet Custody
- PRO: Your pet will be able to maintain relationships with both of the people they care about.
- PRO: You can plan your pet’s custody schedule based on your availability, allowing for maximum engagement and less time alone while their human is at work.
- PRO: It gives you the option of having another loving caregiver for your pet when you need a sitter.
- CON: Anxious pets may find the frequent switching between locations stressful.
- CON: Because of the distance between houses, joint custody may be impractical.
- CON: If you have a strained relationship with your ex, a shared custody arrangement will compel you to maintain communication with her.
- CON: It might be difficult to maintain consistency in training and rules across two families, which adds to your pet’s confusion.
The Benefits and Drawbacks of Sole Pet Custody
- PRO: Having one main caregiver with complete custody may allow a pet to live in the house they know and love full-time (this is often especially important to cats).
- PRO: Whichever spouse is better equipped to care for the pet can provide the most pleasant atmosphere for them (think space to play, free time to spend with them, and a savings account for pricy vet bills).
- PRO: If your pet is clearly more attached to one partner (which is normal), they will most likely be happier with them in the long run.
- PRO: Having one house and one caregiver might provide stability to a pet that is sensitive to change.
- CON: Your pet will have little or no contact with a prior owner, which might be upsetting and confusing if they were close.
It’s crucial to remember that these custody agreements may be tailored to your specific needs. You may elect to share custody, but just one day each week when the spouse with the busier schedule is not working. You may discover that it is preferable to have one major caregiver to offer stability while yet allowing the other spouse to visit and spend time with the pet so that the relationship does not suffer. These choices are based on what is best for your relationship and your pet!
What Happens If We Have Several Pets?
The core decision-making process should be the same (thinking what is best for each animal), but the pets’ interactions with one another add another aspect.
Are the pets friendly with one another? If they are linked, it is preferable to keep them together. This complicates shared parenting agreements by adding extra pets to transport back and forth.
Also, one pet may be a social butterfly that enjoys moving between homes, whilst another has extreme anxiety and requires the steadiness of a single household. It is conceivable to share custody of one pet while leaving another with a main caregiver, but you must consider if that arrangement is workable and good for everyone involved.
If, on the other hand, your pets have always had a strained relationship, it may be better to divide them between two main carers. Although it may be tough for the people involved to determine who receives which pet in such a circumstance, the ultimate choice should be based on where each pet would be the most happy. In certain circumstances, this arrangement may provide comfort to both parties since each partner gets to keep at least one of their favorite dogs.
What if we decide that I should give up my pet?
What if, after considering all of your alternatives, you and your ex decide that it is best for them to take your pet? This may be a terrible yet critical choice. Even if you know you’re doing the right thing for the animal you love, losing them is heartbreaking, and it’s alright to be sad.
Be kind with yourself during the process, and allow yourself time to absorb the breakup with both your spouse and your pet. You may want to check into pet bereavement literature or treatment. Even if you know your pet is alive and well someplace else, the methods for coping with a sudden and severe loss may still be beneficial in processing the painful experience you’re experiencing.
These major life changes may be challenging, but knowing that you’re doing your best for your pet can help you go ahead with confidence. Friends, here’s to smooth breakups and happy pets.