A divorce affects more than the two people. Everyone knows that divorce impacts families, friends, children, business relationships, neighbors and others. However it’s not always humans who are affected—pets may be an important piece to the divorce puzzle. Mediation helps separating couples reach outcomes based on each individual’s needs, wants, and lifestyle, and can help reach an agreement for custody of pets. When going through a divorce that involves furry companions keep the following in mind:

Who owns the pet?

If one of you had the dog or cat before you met each other and married, the pet most likely belongs to that person—not much argument there, no matter how much the other person has come to love and care for it. If you acquired the pet while you were together, then you both are technically owners and probably both bonded with the furry family member.

Who will have space and/or pet friendly accommodations?

Keep the pet’s best interest in mind. An indoor cat will be fine in pretty much any living situation where pets are allowed. A dog, on the other hand, usually needs and deserves room to live. If one of you is staying in the house or moving to somewhere with a yard while the other person has no outdoor space, it may be best for the dog to have a yard (at least most of the time).

Who can better take care of the pet?

A flexible schedule is best for pet owners. Revolve your custody decision around work schedule and lifestyle, especially for a younger animal that requires more attention. Perhaps you can share the pet during the work week and weekends depending on schedules, or switch off weeks when one person is out of town. Co-pet care is often the choice divorcing couples make.

Although you may want the dog or cat all to yourself, it is probably best to think about what is best for the pet. Animals will be able to sense the separation— it’s hard on them too!

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