When we think of divorce, most of us first ask ourselves, “Who will get custody of the children?” For those of us who do not have children, the questions start with “Who gets custody of the car? Who lays claim to jointly invested stock options?” The list goes on and on. The reality is that divorce is not only a legal battle but an emotional one, and trying to separate the two in the court room becomes a battle in and of itself. What many people fail to ask themselves, however, when beginning divorce proceedings, is who gets pet custody?

Pet custody is often put off till the end of divorce proceedings.

If you consider divorce a legal marathon, you must also consider the amount of time it will take to attain a divorce lawyer, how much it will cost you both out of pocket to completely separate yourselves legally from each other, et cetera. Often times the question of who gets custody of the pets is pushed off as unimportant until the very end of a divorce, and with the courts backed up the way they usually are, and depending on your fervor, this question could drag your divorce out for years, costing you immeasurable fortunes in the process.

In the heat of battle, some have gone as far as hiring veterinarians to indicate to the courts which spouse is the dominant owner, thereby indicating which spouse the pet should reside with when all the paperwork has been signed. In most cases, however, one spouse concedes to the other over a joint custody agreement, aided by lawyers on both sides of the table. Often times, one spouse will concede full custody to the other, not wanting to cause their spouse any more undue stress than they’ve already been exposed to, and when all is said and done, both parties leave the court room empty and silent, with their next series of arguments still ahead.

All evidence in past divorce proceedings lead to a general consensus: the sooner you can deal with the issue of who gets the pets, the more time, money and emotional distress you will be spared in the very long legal run that divorce is sure to offer. So don”t wait. Working with your spouse to come to a reasonable conclusion over who gets custody of the pets is not easy. If it was, so many spouses wouldn’t plead their case for full custody before a judge, but if it’s possible to organize your emotional assets outside of the courts, do it.

Consider the children when working through this difficult matter. If both parties have agreed to joint custody, it may be to the benefit of the entire family for the pet to reside wherever the children are, whether it’s three and a half days a week, or one week here, one week there. Pets play an instrumental role in the health and well-being of a child, and the children will be in need of growth and healing, especially after the long, trying toils of divorce. Deciding peacefully who gets custody of the pets can do nothing but help.

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