For most people, the family pet is their best friend, and some even treat their pet as a child. It is evident that pets play a significant role in the family home, but it’s challenging to redefine their role during divorce proceedings.

So how do we handle pets during divorce?

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), divorce is a common reason people to rehome or surrender pets to a shelter. Divorcees can avoid rehoming their furry friends by developing a pet custody agreement or co-parenting.

Pet custody agreements

Your dog or cat may be a part of the family. However, the law sees your pet as personal property, like a table or a house. Since pets are seen as personal property, you can use a prenuptial agreement to ensure your pet stays yours or establish a pet custody plan.

You can also draft a postnuptial agreement after the wedding day to simplify the separation process. Before finalizing a pet custody plan, you need to answer some fundamental questions, including:

  1. Whose pet is it?
  2. Who cares for the pet?
  3. Who is better suited for pet ownership?
  4. Where will the pet live?

The answers to these questions will decide what is in the best interests of your best friend. For example, if one spouse frequently travels for work, they won’t have time to take care of a pet or provide adequate attention. It is in the best interest of the animal to remain with the spouse at home.

Co-parenting a pet

If you and your spouse both feel entitled to the family pet, you may want to consider co-parenting. It’s a similar concept to pet custody, but each “dog parent” has plenty of time with their beloved pet.

Arrangements depend on the couple’s circumstances, but most agreements involve one primary owner with the other as a “pet sitter.” It lets both parents see the pet frequently and spend time with their furry friend.

Sharing a pet also leads to positive effects for your best friend because pets often experience depression or anxiety during periods of significant change. If you and your former partner can help maintain a pet’s routine, it will ease the transition from one household to two households.

Whatever the arrangement, it’s important to put your pet’s needs first because it is up to you and your spouse to comfort your family pet in a tough situation.