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Sharon Easley
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Using mediation to determine pet custody

There are numerous items divorcing couples need to figure out how to divide for a divorce. One common point of contention comes down to determining who gets custody of the dog, cat, rabbit or any other pet the couple shared. 

Mediation is a peaceful, affordable way for a couple to figure out who gets what in a divorce. When a couple adopted a dog or cat together, both people will probably want to keep the animal. As with anything during mediation, it is critical for both sides to remain open to compromise. There are various things the couple and mediator can discuss to come up with the best pet custody agreement possible. 

Both spouses need to ask themselves some tough questions

While both spouses will probably want to have a furry friend around their new house, it is vital to do whatever is best for the pet. Some questions that might come up during the mediation session include:

  • Who purchased the pet?
  • Who paid for medical bills, food and toys?
  • Who was mostly responsible for feeding and walking the pet?
  • Who did the pet bond with the most?
  • Who will have the financial capabilities to care for the pet after the divorce?
  • Which spouse has a job that will allow him or her to give the pet enough attention?

Consider sharing custody

One option is to share custody of the pet similarly to how a couple will share custody of a child. In relation to children, a divorcing couple should try to keep the pet with the kids because they will naturally be the most devastated by the animal's departure. When the couple does not have children, both sides can still rotate custody of the dog or cat, but they should be mindful that the constant change in environment is not too stressful for the animal. Additionally, if a couple shares more than one pet, such as two dogs, then they should keep both of them together rather than giving each spouse one dog. 

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