Many families have pets that are just as much a part of the family as everyone else. The ASPCA estimates that in the US, over 35 percent of homes have cats, while more than 44 percent have a dog. Pets can make for wonderful companions, and it can be incredibly hard to picture life without them suddenly.
Unfortunately, tough situations such as divorce affect many families, and in these situations, decisions have to be made about pets. Many find a way to keep family pets, but others have to give them away due to the change in circumstances. This happens so often that during a re-homing survey, the ASPCA discovered that close to 27 percent of all pets who were given away stemmed from a family change like divorce.
Pets are often an important part of a family, but what to do with a pet post-divorce is an issue that is not always settled quickly or happily. Even though pet owners may see their pets like a child, the law considers them personal property, and deciding how to handle them in a divorce after everything else can feel overwhelming. However, finding a way to keep your pets in your family can be worth the trouble, particularly if you have kids. Before you decide how to approach pets in your divorce, consider the benefits they offer and the options you may have.
Pets Offer Unexpected Perks
Obviously, the love your pets offer you feels wonderful, but your furry friends offer more than that. The CDC suggests that owning a pet can lower your cholesterol levels and blood pressure while decreasing loneliness and boosting your opportunities for socialization.
For children, pets are confidants, playmates and something constant and dependable. When a child’s world is suddenly spinning because of a divorce, having a family pet by his or her side can help relieve some of the stress and anxiety they are experiencing.
Consistency Is the Key
Deciding you want to keep your pets post-divorce is an honorable choice in a difficult situation. However, there are some factors you need to consider.
First, you need to consider how attached your pet is to each family member. Sometimes, pets attach themselves the tightest to one person, and removing them from that person can be tough on them. Do keep in mind, though, that caregiving has to be considered as well. If the pet is more attached to someone who now will not have the time available for caregiving, it may be worth it to separate them. Similarly, if both you and your former spouse have the time needed to care for the pet and feel strongly about the animal, you can consider sharing pet time if the pet can adjust to that and you can make it work between yourselves.
Although you should consider your options carefully before giving your pets away, you do need to consider your finances at the same time. If keeping your pets is going to cost more than you can afford with your post-divorce financial situation, keeping them might not be in your best interest or that of your pets.
Speak to an Attorney
If you have decided you want to keep your pets, speak to your family law attorney about it as soon as you can. He or she can explain your options and work toward your goal.
Whether to keep your pets or not after a divorce is an issue you need to consider with care. While pets offer their owners a myriad of benefits, you have to decide whether keeping them at this time is truly going to be in your best interests.