We both Want the Dog/Cat/Pet in the Divorce: What Do we Do?

Usually, people fight about two things in divorces: kids and money. Then, sometimes, people fight about something almost (or more, depending on the circumstance) as important: pets.

This actually makes sense. A pet is a part of the family. For man people who don’t have children, they take on an even more special significance.

So, how do you handle things when you both want the family dog/cat/pet in your Utah divorce?

Let me begin this discussion by talking very briefly about how courts determine custody of children. Utah law contains a number of factors a judge has to consider when deciding which parent a child lives with (e.g., who was the primary parent, who is more stable, etc.). Many times, there are trials with experts who testify, character witnesses, etc.

Yeah, that’s just not the case with pets. No matter how much you love Fido (or Tristan if it were my childhood yellow lab), you don’t go to trial and call witnesses and offer documents to prove what is in his best interests.

Instead, you negotiate. Yes, you negotiate who gets the family dog/cat/pet.

I know this might seem crass to those who love their pets, but it just is.

Honestly, what has happened every time I have had a family pet case is we get in mediation and talk about who will keep the pet. And every time but one case, one spouse ended up with the family pet.

This is because one spouse tends to be more attached to a pet than the other. Now, if you had kids, you would never just give a child to the other parent because he/she liked the child more. But pets aren’t children, and people will admit the other person should have the family pet because the other person likes it more.

Now, this isn’t to say negotiation is always easy. Many hours have been spent talking about who gets the pet, but one side always relents.

I did have one case in which we negotiated a visitation schedule for the family’s dog. Both spouses were very attached to the dog, which had taken on a child-like role in their marriage. It was actually a pretty good visitation schedule too because everyone was reasonable and realistic.

So, if you have a pet involved in your divorce, be prepared to negotiate.

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