When it comes to divorce, laws involving shared custody, visitation and alimony are designed to protect the best interests of children. Laws regarding pets, however, are intended to benefit the owners.
You could involve the court in the decision over who gets the family dog (or cat—we're not prejudiced!), but be forewarned: Pets are viewed as property. In the eyes of the law, granting shared custody over a pet is viewed in the same light as passing a toaster back and forth from one week to the next.
So, you might just want to work this one last thing out on your own. It's hard to let go of a pet, but here are some questions to ask yourselves, to help you decide what's best for your furry companion.
Who cared for the pet?
It's not about the feelings of love and adoration, but the hard grit of pet ownership. Who was primarily responsible for walking and feeding Fido? Who changed Fluffy's litter box? If one of you is already better accustomed to accommodating the needs of a pet in your daily routine, then you might be better prepared to keep on keeping on.
Some pets don't do very well with change in their surroundings. Maybe you haven't moved with your pet before and don't know how it would handle such a drastic change. Consider how your pet reacts to new surroundings—whether that's rearranged furniture in your new home, or a visit to a friend's house. If your pet is a quivering mess, a move might not be in his or her best interest.
Are there kids involved?
If one of you has custody over the kids, consider leaving the pet with them. The kids are already facing a huge upheaval, so letting them keep the pet they love could help ease their stress. Pets could always come along on weekend visits.
Who's around more?
If one of you works long hours, or has a fluctuating schedule, it's best to leave the pet with the person who has the time to give the pet the attention it deserves.
How many pets do you have?
If you have more than one pet, it may seem logical for each person to take one. If your pets are friendly and devoted to each other, however, this could increase their stress and anxiety.
Written by Cassie Westrate, staff writer for West Michigan Woman.