Family Lawyers Can Help During A Pet Custody Dispute

If you and your spouse are getting divorced and are having a huge disagreement about who gets custody of your dog or cat, you can seek mediation. Disputes over custody of pets could be seen as frivolous when compared with other issues in a divorce. However, if the situation is causing you a great deal of angst, understand that you’re not alone. Family lawyers increasingly are dealing with this issue.

Going To Court 

Especially if you and your spouse agree on other matters in your divorce, you probably prefer to settle this particular problem out of court. Going to court is expensive, and you essentially turn all control over to the judge assigned to your case. The law views pets as property, and a judge may decide the case based on which person technically deserves this particular possession.

Your spouse may have paid for the animal, for example. The judge may decide this is the most important factor, even if you are the one who has the strongest emotional bond with your pet.

Collaborative And Mediation Processes

A collaborative process involves you and your spouse formally meeting to negotiate an arrangement that is acceptable to both of you. Your attorneys also attend these meetings. 

If your relationship is not amicable and you don’t want to meet together, mediation may be a better option. Typically during a mediation session, you and your lawyer sit in one room while your spouse and his or her lawyer are another room. The mediator acts as the go-between and presents possible compromises.

Shared Custody

Unless you and your soon-to-be-ex-spouse live near one another, shared custody of a pet is impractical. This may be a good option, however, if you are sharing custody of children. The pet is transported along with the kids from one house to another during the week. The agreement also may work even if you don’t have kids and the two of you still get along well. 


Another option is to grant sole custody of the pet to one person and then set up a visitation schedule, just as divorced couples do with children. You might have sole custody while your ex has the dog or cat every other weekend, for example.


Be sure to consider your pet’s well-being when you work out your legal arrangement. Not all companion animals take well to being carted back and forth between homes. 

You also may want to be honest about which home actually will be best for your pet. For example, if you’re routinely gone a lot and your dog has to stay alone, the pet may feel happier with an ex-spouse who is home a great deal of the time.

Talk to your divorce attorney, like those at Stringam Denecky LLP, for advice on how you can make the best choice for your divorce case and your pet.

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