THE BLOG
07/30/2013 05:48 pm ET Updated Sep 29, 2013

Pet Custody - A New Trend for Pet lovers

For those non-pet lovers the concept of fighting over beloved pets is hard to fathom. Yet for families facing a divorce, the decision about what to do with their furry pal, can be just as hard as the many other difficult decisions they will be faced with.

As divorce rates continue to increase in different parts of North America, there are an increasing number of articles addressing fighting over the "custody" of pets such as the latest article in Jacksonville. In some States/Provinces there are even precedent setting cases about how to handle pets if the parties cannot agree on their own terms. Of course, coming up with a decision over the coffee table is the cheapest and easiest way, but for some couples they need a bit more assistance.

In this case, mediation makes a lot of sense as using the legal system is adversarial and expensive and certainly does not set the stage for future co-parenting of kids or pets. Focus on finding creative ways to share/split your pet(s) that is fair and in everyone's best interest. Approaching your discussions and decisions in this way will also help overall in making this life-changing event just a little bit easier.

Here are some pet sharing tips for the parents of these furry beings:

For Families with Kids:
  • Consider that your pet goes back and forth with the children
  • Perhaps share the costs of the pet the same way that extraordinary costs are shared
  • Agree in advance about yearly vet bills and check ups. Perhaps discuss what the maximum limit would be to budget in the case of a health emergency
  • Consider sharing pet insurance to avoid these emergency costs if possible
For Couples without Kids and only Pets:
  • Again, the dog can go back and forth on a rotation (ie one week, month etc.) With young kids there is always a concern about times between seeing both
  • Parents, but with animals, the longer stay is not likely to harm the pet and may be better for their training consistency. It may perhaps cause grief for their owners but nothing that is long lasting.
  • Sharing of the costs associated with the pet(s) is likely the fairest thing to do especially if sharing access.
  • Perhaps the pet stays with one party, especially if only one home permits pets, and the other party can visit or take him/her for walks etc.
Other:
  • If there is more than one pet (ie: two dogs or two cats) perhaps research the effects of splitting them up. If there are no negative effects then perhaps each party getting one might be a good solution.
  • Some couples have agreed that one party keeps the pet and pays for one half of the cost for a new pet for the other party.

For peace of mind for your pet(s) and yourself, commit to find a fair way to deal with the custody of your pet(s). Avoid the nasty custody battle and what ever you do - do not resort to kidnapping the pet in the middle of the night or refuse access to the other party as divorce is hard enough as it is.