Things to Consider About Your Pets During Divorce


Everyone in a household is affected by a divorce, including any pets. This can be a stressful time for your dog or cat, and owning a pet can make things even messier. It can be hard to determine who gets ownership of any animals. Unlike getting shared custody of a child, a pet will likely stay with one person. However, shared custody of pets has actually grown in popularity in recent years. Here are some things to think about when determining pet custody.

Put the Pet First

This is the most important thing you need to think about. You need to put your own feelings toward your furry buddy aside and think about what is ultimately best for your pet’s health. Shared custody might be possible, but constantly going to different homes can be stressful for some dogs and cats. You need to consider where the pet is going to be happiest after the divorce. Additionally, if one person in the household took care of more of the responsibilities such as feeding and walking the dog, then the pooch should stay with that person.

Decide Ownership on Your Own

Pet ownership can be taken to a court of law, but a judge is going to view a dog as property as opposed to a real member of the family. Instead of dragging a pet into the court proceedings, you should speak with your former spouse about the issue. Some questions to ask yourself include:

  • Who had the pet first?
  • Does someone travel often for work?
  • Does someone work longer hours?
  • Does the pet like one of you over the other?

Additionally, pet ownership can be one of the things mentioned in your prenuptial agreement. While those agreements are slightly awkward to discuss before getting married, it will be hugely beneficial in the event of a divorce.

Be Aware of How Your Pet Is Feeling

You are undoubtedly going throw a lot of emotions during this time. However, you need to be cognizant of any changes in your pet’s behavior or health. There are many signs your pet is overly stressed. Sleeping a lot, eating less and having accidents inside the house are some of the signs your furry friend is feeling stressed out. Be mindful of these signs so that you know when your pet needs support.

Talk amicably with your ex-spouse about who gets Fluffy. Shared custody might be the best option, and it can be a great way to remain on good terms with your ex. However, if letting a pet stay with the other person would be best for the pet’s well-being following a divorce, then you need to know when it is time to walk away.

About Oliver Ross

Oliver Ross, JD*, PhD founded Out-of-Court Solutions Inc. in 1995 and since then has mediated over 3,000 divorce and family matters. He is a select member of the Maricopa Superior Court Family Mediation roster