For many couples, their dog or cat is a member of the family — and one whose future is a serious bone of contention if the human relationship happens to falter.
When pet parents decide to go their separate ways, it’s important to find a custody solution for pets that will satisfy everyone affected – especially Fido and Fluffy. Read on for a look at ideas on how to handle pet custody after a break-up.
As divorced parents know well, Mom and Dad need to maintain peace to avoid a tug-of-war which negatively affects a child. Keep this same dynamic in mind as you work out what will happen to your pet.
Begin with basic facts. Who does the pet belong to? Did one partner bring the pet into the relationship? Agreeing on who the pet originally belonged to may help answer the question about who the pet should stay with after the break-up.
The law recognizes your furry friend as a possession to be assigned to one party or the other. Because of this, it may well be best for you and your ex to come to a decision on your own, rather than relying on outside perspective. You can even draw up a pet custody agreement between you, though it may not be legally binding. Of course, if the relationship is ending on a contentious note, the binding opinion of a court or negotiator may be necessary for the benefit of the pet.
As in the case of children, split pet “parents” may need to decide if one person’s home suits the pet better in terms of location, space, schedule, and compatibility. Consider the following issues:
Sometimes the answer to one or more of these questions is obvious and makes it easy for the former couple to decide which person should have primary or sole custody of the pet. The situation may become more difficult when an emotional pull outweighs more logical justifications for reasonable pet care. The answer to which person makes the best custodian for the pet becomes harder to arrive at.
Just as with shared custody of a child, pet owners who agree on joint custody of their four-legged progeny can make arrangements to fit the needs of both the pet and themselves. If the former partners live near each other, the options increase. They can split custody between the weekend and the workweek, or they can alternate full weeks, for instance. The flexibility of the care schedule must take into account how well the pet adjusts to change.
Whatever agreement you strike with your ex, be sure to hammer out the hand-off method and other details before you begin. Will you meet in a neutral location? Will one pet parent be able to hang out at the other’s apartment for get-togethers? Try to imagine the variables before you set it all into motion so there won’t be conflict down the line.
Breaking up a relationship is difficult in so many ways. Determining how to care for a pet can be a truly painful part of dissolving a household. Remember to be reasonable and consider what is best for your pet. When both pet parents share this priority, the transition will be easier for the animal.
Photo credit: Shutterstock / leungchopan