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Who Gets the Dog in the Divorce?


And how to support your other pets when the relationship ends



There are countless stories, songs, poems, shows, and movies dedicated to the excruciating pain of a breakup. We all know they’re never easy or fun. But in these modern times, breakups -- especially divorces -- are steadily becoming more complicated with the involvement of the family pets.


Sure, you can involve the courts in the decision of who gets Fido, but be prepared: Pets are still viewed as property in the U.S. (and many other jurisdictions), and it comes down to whether the judge in question is willing to deal with the pet problem.


So many different stories swirl around: From the couple who were ordered to take one pet each, to the woman who lost her dog to her husband, merely because he was the one who’d bought it (even though she was the one who cared for the pet).


Of course, sometimes our breakups are messy and both parties involved are either too stubborn or too attached to the pet to make the decision themselves. Luckily, PetMD has some tips to guide you through, hopefully without expensive court intervention.


Who Moves?

Yes, this can be an important factor. Some pets don’t do well with changes in their surroundings. Remember, these times are stressful for all involved, so if you’re the one moving out -- and you know Fluffy becomes a quivering mess of nerves when you change the drapes -- then leaving the pet behind, though difficult, is likely the best recourse.


What About the Kids?

If kids are involved and your soon-to-be-ex has custody, just because you love Fido isn’t reason enough to take the dog away from the kids who also love him. The kids are going through a big upheaval, so doing everything to keep their stress to a minimum is paramount. Besides, there’s no reason why the dog (or cat, for that matter) can’t come along on the weekend visits.


No Need for Spite

Sometimes you want to lash out at the person who’s leaving you, and in highly emotional states we often do things we would never do when happy. Ask yourself, do you really want the pet, or are you just trying to inflict more pain on your ex? Unlike the plasma TV both of you want so badly, an animal has feelings. An animal also deserves love and care. Therefore, if you merely want the pet because it belonged to your ex (and yes, we know you also love the pet), the noble move is to leave the pet with its original owner and caregiver. Trust us, in a few months you’ll be glad you made the right decision. Also, the plasma TV will look great in your new pad.


For the Workaholics

If one of you have a job with insane hours, but you both love the pet equally, then sometimes it is best to think logically. Should the person who works 18-hour days really get the pet? Think about how that would affect Fluffy. In situations like this, the best bet is to let the pet live with the person who has time to pay the pet the attention it deserves.


Splitting Up the "Other Kids"

What if the predicament you're faced with is that you have two pets? You might find it agreeable to take one pet each. People sometimes do have favorites. But of course, this is only best when the pets are friendly but not devoted to each other.


Breaking up really is hard to do, but hopefully our advice will help makes things a little easier and help keep the pets in a stable, loving environment. Consulting an animal attorney in your state would also be beneficial, should you decide to proceed through legal means.


The general remarks above are not intended to be treated as legal advice.


Image: Stefano Mortellaro / via Flickr



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