4 Steps for Handling the Delicate Issue of Pet Ownership After a Divorce

A dog, cat or other pet can bring a couple (or family) together. However, if you go through a Virginia divorce, the fighting that erupts over who gets the pet, when, how, and under what conditions can rival the battles over child custody. Here are 4 steps to help you handle the tricky and emotionally wrenching debates over your pet’s custody.

1. Keep the animal’s best interest in mind.

Think of the animal’s comfort and happiness as well as your own. For instance, let’s say that you and your spouse want to split up and move to different cities. You personally might be inclined to develop a pet sharing arrangement that has the dog shuttle between the two cities twice a week, so that you get to spend plenty of quality time with the animal. But all the moving could be confusing for him or her. Adopt a plan that honors what the pet really needs.

2. If custody of the pet is really important, be flexible on other negotiation points.

For instance, you might want to allow your spouse to keep more of the China or flatware that you got from your wedding or even give a bit on other negotiations. Decide when and where you’re willing to compromise – as well as what you really want from the negotiation – and you’ll be more likely to develop “win, win and win” solutions for you, your spouse, and the animal.

3. When you’re ready – and only when – consider getting another pet.

Perhaps your spouse is moving to a big house out in the country with a large yard that’s perfect for your pet to roam around, and you live in a more urban environment that’s not as easily conducive to a dog ownership. If you feel comfortable doing so, consider adopting a smaller pet that would be easier and simpler for you to love.

4. Maintain a flexible and friendly posture towards the other spouse, if possible.

The pet sharing plan that you adopt in the first weeks or months after a separation may not be the long-term solution that you ultimately both want. Avoid “poisoning the well” by making overly aggressive demands or acting in a punitive or outrageous fashion. The more than you and spouse can trust each other as negotiation partners, the easier it will be for you to negotiate better long-term arrangements regarding the pet.

For help dealing with your separation, call the experienced Fairfax, Virginia divorce lawyers at DiPietro Family Law Group, PLLC at (703) 370-5555. We can provide a confidential and thorough consultation and help you understand what to do next.

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