One of the most difficult aspects of divorce can be deciding who gets to keep the dog. After all, your dog is a major part of your family and both you and your soon-to-be ex love him. While this decision is rarely an easy one, here are a few guidelines to help you:
Consider Shared Custody if You Have Kids
If you have children, one good option is to attach your dog's custody to the same arrangement you make for the kids. For example, if you have your children every other week, you would keep the dog on those weeks as well. This allows for both adults to continue to own and be involved with the dog, and also avoids having to separate the children from a dog they are likely very attached to.
Determine Who Primarily Paid for the Dog
Some courts look at a dog as a financial asset to be awarded to one party, rather than a family member. If you paid the adoption fees for the dog, and have also been primarily responsible for paying for veterinary care, dog food, toys, and doggy daycare, it might make the most sense legally and practically for you to keep the dog. If only one of you can easily afford to take care of a dog, this will be an important factor.
Look at Which Spouse Has the Most Time
In addition to money, it is important to demonstrate that you have enough time for your dog. Remember that this decision is about what's best for your dog, not about getting revenge on your spouse. For example, if your spouse works from home and has a flexible schedule, but you work long hours in an office, your dog may have a much better life with your spouse than with you.
Get Things in Writing with Your Lawyer
Whatever you and your spouse agree to, it is a good idea to get things in writing as part of your overall divorce agreement. This will prevent difficulties in the future if your ex changes their mind about who should be able to keep the dog.
By following these tips, you and your spouse can make a fair decision regarding dog custody. If you can't come to an agreement, be sure to consult your divorce attorney right away. They may be able to negotiate with your ex's attorney on your behalf to reach a fair agreement.
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