How Are Pets Split in Divorce?

In Emotional Support Animalby Emotional Pet Support TeamLeave a Comment

For couples going through a divorce, deciding the faith of their beloved furry friend may be already challenging enough. However, when there are multiple pets involved, the collateral damage from divorce may be detrimental, which makes the decision even harder.

The couples may choose to equally divide the support pets between spouses. And while it may be a great solution for the owners (as everyone gets at least one dear soul they used to love for so many years), it might be not that beneficial for the fluffy members of the family.

When it comes to deciding the pets’ future after divorce, you can’t appeal to their logic and justify your choice by “irreconcilable differences” – as they love every member of their family no matter what. With that said, it is important to consider different options and choose the best scenario that would allow your little ones to avoid excessive stress and adjust to the new circumstances easier.

What are the possible outcomes when splitting pets?

When pets share the same home for a long time, they often form a special bond. Getting separated would mean losing a friend they used to love and care about for so many years.

However, pets are not property. They have feelings, and it should be taken into account when deciding their future. They can also feel sadness, loneliness, and devastation. Tearing them apart from each other can cause more anxiety, stress, and confusion in addition to many other challenges they will be forced to go through. Divorce frequently leads to many changes, like a new daily routine, different home, and loss of their human pack members. Making farewells with their four-legged pack members will only heighten the stress and worsen the whole process of transition. 

If you are still going to separate your pets, be prepared that this process may not go smoothly. They may show apathy, loss of appetite, excessive barking or meowing, hiding, shivering, and other signs of depression and stress. Some of them may even start urinating around to mark their new territory or even bite and scratch furniture as a sign of protest. George Walberg found it out the hard way: “I thought preparing my divorce papers online without an attorney would be the hardest…But then we decided to split our two lovely Labradoodles. I can’t even express what we all have been through. Harley and Quinn just stopped eating, they were skin and bones!”

What you definitely don’t want to do in these circumstances is to show your irritation and annoyance with their disobedience. At this stage, it is important to surround your pets with as much love, care, and compassion as possible. As a pet-parent, you have to show them that they are safe, cherished, and you are not going to abandon them.  Try to stick to their habitual daily routine as consistently as possible. By having at least something normal in life, they will eventually make peace with the situation and adapt to their new lifestyle.

On the other hand, it may happen that the splitting process will give you no trouble at all. Sometimes, pets get more attached to one of the owners, while having no special feelings for their other parent, children, or pet-mates. In such a case, leaving pets with their favorite owner may be the best solution to help them avoid additional stress and adapt to the new conditions easier. As all animals are different, the divorcing parties should consider their pets’ personalities and habits to decide their future on a case-by-case basis.

Alternative Future Scenarios

If you believe that splitting your furry friends will only aggravate the situation, you may want to consider other options for handling this situation. Some of them may be hard and hurtful for you but acting in their best interests is the right thing to do. 

For example, these three tips may be a good alternative solution: 

One owner gets to keep all pets. While splitting pets between divorcing spouses may seem the fairest way, it is not always the best choice for your little companions. Before making the final decision, give yourself an honest answer – can you be the owner they need you to be? Do you have enough time to afford to walk and train your dog? Do you know how to properly care about your pet? Are you sure it won’t feel lonely while you are working 24/7? If you have doubts that you can make it work, perhaps it is better to give it up to your spouse.

Consider joint custody. If you are closely attached to all of your pets, and you don’t want them to be the victims of your divorce, you can try joint custody with your ex-partner. In this case, your pets will stay together and avoid the stress that always comes with unexpected changes. All you have to do is to devise a good plan where you can enjoy taking care of your pets every now and then without getting into fights with your ex. 

Meet for playdates. However, if you did end up splitting your little ones, occasional playdates can make things work better for all of you. Discuss with your ex-spouse an opportunity to meet in the park or in the backyard of your home every now and then so that pets could see each other and spend some time playing and having fun. Of course, it is not the same as leaving together “as a pack”, but enjoying each other’s company at least sometimes is better than nothing.

Whatever happens, the well-being of your pets and how they get over through your divorce should be your top priority. Unlike humans, pets are incapable of hiding their emotions, switching to positive thinking or other distractions. Therefore, it’s their owners’ responsibility to make the changes as smooth as possible to keep their four-legged companions cheerful and safe.   

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