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Sharon Easley
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Can mediation help determine who gets the family pet?

Mediation is great for couples who still get along reasonably well and want a less stressful separation process. However, those with disputes and conflicts may still find this a viable solution. It may also be possible for individuals in abusive relationships to benefit from mediation because it can help provide strength to the person who suffered abuse. 

There is a lot to discuss during mediation sessions. One item some spouses may not think to ask about is who gets the family pet. Whether a couple shared a dog, cat or bird, it is not likely spouses will be able to reach a custody agreement where they trade off. In the eyes of the court, an animal is property, so they may be better off figuring out who gets the pet during these sessions. 

Questions to help reach a conclusion

The point of mediation sessions is to view things from the other spouse's perspective, so it is vital to remain open and honest about what each of them can provide the pet. One question couples need to ask is who will stay at the house. It can be traumatic for an animal to completely change its surroundings, so if one spouse will retain the house, then the pet should probably stay there. 

Another question to ask is, "Who is the pet's primary caretaker?" Perhaps one spouse works from home and spends more time with the animal. This spouse is predominantly the one who feeds and walks the pet, so the animal may have a closer bond with this individual. It is vital for all parties involved to set aside their feelings and consider what will be in the best interest of the animal. 

Finally, it may be best to come up with a child custody agreement before figuring out who gets the pet. Children will naturally have stronger bonds with the animals, so it may be best for the pet to stay with the parent who receives a greater amount of custody. 

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