The process of divorce can be an extremely stressful time for everyone involved, right down to the dog. Owning a pet together is a major milestone in many relationships, with few couples thinking about what would happen to their canine companion should they separate. For many, the thought of no longer living with or seeing their beloved pet is just as bad as having to share custody with a former partner. If you are facing divorce in the near future and are worried about what will happen to your pet, it’s important to understand how pet custody works in the court of law.

What is Pet Custody?

Pet custody is another term related to an owner and dog relationship. Pet custody is usually established by who the dog lives with, who takes physical care of the dog and who is financially responsible for the dog. Because in many cases, a dog is a shared purchase with finances related to care split down the middle, this can become a complicated part of the divorce process.

How is Pet Custody Decided?

In most states, a dog is considered to be property. According to the Boston property division attorney at Wilkinson & Finkbeiner, “The division of estates of the parties upon divorce is supposed to entail a final assignment of their property, not subject to modification.” There are no special statuses’ for dogs under the law and they are not considered the same as children. Currently, people are moving to have this changed. In some cases, judges make rulings that involve visitation with the pet and shared finances related to care. 

Before the ruling, a judge is interested in the following factors such as: 

  • Who cared for the pet? (Feeding, grooming, healthcare)
  • Who spent the most time with the pet? (Testimonies may be required)
  • Where the parties will live after the divorce 
  • Who will provide the best environment for the pet
  • Who will have primary custody of the child/children after the divorce

Create a Shared Pet Parenting Plan

If possible, working out a parenting plan for the dog with your ex-partner might be the best for all parties involved. Depending on your schedules, create an arrangement that will allow everyone to maintain a positive relationship with the animal. 

Dogs are used to having a regular schedule so if their routine is disrupted, they may act out. Be flexible and patient, as there will be an adjustment period for them. Also, it’s important to work out an agreement regarding the pet’s expenses. Create a shared account that is strictly for the pet and their needs, including grooming, vet bills, food, dog-walkers, and toys. 

Divorce is a stressful and traumatic process for everyone involved. Having a furry friend nearby as a familiar comfort can help ease the process and help both parties work towards a positive co-parenting relationship moving forward.

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