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Custody over the family pet

18th April 2013

In circumstances when children are involved in this type of dispute, it is important to keep the process as stress-free as possible and have the child’s best interests at heart.

However, a perhaps less well-recognised dispute between couples who are separating, is who gets to keep the pets.

According to the Pet Owners Association, 20% of all separation proceedings which involve custody of a pet result in contested divorces. Furthermore, 10% of couples contact a professional mediator in order to help them reach an out-of-court agreement about their furry, feathery, or scaly friends.

Compared to fighting for the right to live with or see your children, arguing over a pet might seem silly, but as pet owners will know, an animal can quickly become an important family member, and it might be very hard to let go.

What’s more, people may not realise that, depending on the animal, it is just as important to keep any interactions between the couple civil as it is when a child is involved.

Research undertaken at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver in 2009 discovered that dogs are at least as clever as a human child of two years of age. Understandably then, they can find arguments and the other unfortunate trappings of marriage breakdown disturbing.

So, even though going through a difficult divorce might make day-to-day life difficult while disputes are flaring and a clean separation seems light-years away, couples should try to see how their behaviour might affect others around them, who may be frightened and confused by the situation.

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