Should Pets Be Part of the Custody Arrangement?

When people are getting divorced and they have children, custody arrangements are set up to determine which parent gets custody of the kids. In states like Arizona, there will typically be a 50/50 arrangement, as the courts feel this is what’s best for the kids. However, you might be wondering what happens when you have pets.

You love your pets, and they are a part of your family, but can they be part of a custody agreement? Most of the time when people are divorcing, their focus will be on their children and helping them to transition to a new way of life.

It Can Help You and the Rest of the Family

People become attached to their pets and want them to be around. Animals are great stress relievers and good friends to have that can help you when you are going through a divorce. They are also good for the kids, as they can provide them with a constant in their life. Even though the parents might be going through a divorce, having the pet go back and forth between the houses with them can make a real difference. Even though this might be a small change, it can have a big, positive effect on everyone.

It Could Be Healthy for the Dog

Dogs tend to be able to sense the emotions of those they are around. They also know when something is different in their life and having one of their owners no longer around them can be traumatic. In some cases, the dogs could become depressed and even become ill during a divorce and when they are separated from someone that they know and love. They might even manifest physical symptoms, such as not eating, licking the fur off their paws or other areas, etc. It means they are stressed and they aren’t sure how to handle the changes. By allowing the dog to be shared between the owners and to go back and forth between homes, it could help to provide the animal with a greater sense of normalcy.

Planning for Your Pets

Consider writing in time with the pet to your parenting plan or discuss sharing custody of the pets. California recently passed a law that allowed family courts to have the authority to order what amounts to a parenting plan for the pet in accordance with the best interest of the pet. This ensures that the pet’s needs and the owners’ needs can be met. It might include the amount of time that each person gets with the pet, what happens when they have to go to the vet, etc.

Animals have more personality and emotion than many people give them credit for. They form attachments with people, and when you are going through a divorce, they are going through trauma of their own. It can affect them in a range of ways, but they don’t have the capacity to let you know since they can’t speak. By using a parenting plan for the pets, it can provide them with the support they need.

Try to Keep the Routines the Same

When you have a pet that’s going back and forth from one house to another, it can be good for you, the pet, and the kids if you have any. However, there could be some problems if the pet has a different routine at each house. Therefore, as part of the parenting plan, you might want to talk with your ex about coming up with and keeping a routine for the dog. Ideally, you will keep them on a similar routine as the one they have been on for a while. This means going out for walks, to the bathroom, and getting fed at around the same time.

Otherwise, disruptions to the routine can be difficult for the dog. It can also be difficult for you, as your pet will not be accustomed to the times that you need to take them out, for example.

Additionally, you might want to consider having some of the pet’s favorite toys be travel toys that go with them from one house to another. This might include their blanket, a stuffed toy, etc. This helps them to feel more at home even when they aren’t at their usual home. When you first move to a new place, or if you and your ex are both in new homes, having those toys and the scent can help the pets to feel more comfortable.

Will It Be Possible for You?

Of course, it’s not always possible. In some cases, you or your ex might now be living in an apartment or a condo complex that doesn’t allow dogs or that doesn’t allow dogs over a certain size, or that are a certain breed. In those cases, it wouldn’t be possible to have the dog go back and forth. However, it might still be possible for the exes to share the dog. The person who can’t have a dog at their home might come over to take the dog to the park, for a hike, etc. on the weekends. This will be dependent on whether there is an agreement made and/or if the exes are willing to agree to this type of arrangement.

If you or your ex moves out of state, it wouldn’t be possible to have access to the dog either. This might be something that you want to talk with them about before a move to determine what happens to the dog.

Talk with an Attorney About Family Law Issues

Whether you are going through a divorce that should be easy and without any conflict, or you are in a high-asset divorce with custody issues, it’s always important to have someone on your side. Make it a point to find and work with an experienced attorney that knows and understands family law and that can empathize with your need to be around your pet. They could help you if you have questions about how you could put pet information into your parenting plan, for example.