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The Law Offices of Paul H. Nathan

Q:
My ex and I adopted a dog together. Now, we both want custody. What can I do to make sure that the dog stays with me?

A:

It is obvious that you love your pet. But, you and your ex must keep your pet’s best interests in mind when making decisions about your pet’s future. This means that you need to take a realistic look at your family composition, your housing situation, your lifestyle, and the lifestyle of your ex. 

If there are children, you will want to consider their relationship with the pet. In most cases, it makes sense for the pet to stay with the kids. Divorce is very hard on children; losing a pet can make it even harder.

If there are no children, consider your housing situation. Will you be moving? Will your spouse? Is there room for your dog in the new home? An active Border Collie who is used to having a backyard may not do well in a small apartment, while a tiny Pomeranian might be just fine.

You should also consider work schedules, travel plans, and financial situation. Dogs require plenty of attention. Will one of you have more time to spend with the pet? The spouse with the most flexible schedule may be the best person to take custody, but this isn’t always true.

It is best if you and your ex can agree on a mutually satisfying arrangement. If you both want the dog, be open-minded. You may decide that the dog should live with you during the work week and spend weekends with your ex. Or, you may decide that the dog is best off with you, and your ex can schedule doggy visits.  If you are able to agree on an arrangement, ask your San Francisco divorce attorney to draw up an official agreement.

If you can’t agree, you’re going have to compromise. Let your San Francisco divorce lawyer know exactly how important custody of your pet is to you. Is your dog more important than the amount of spousal support? Is your dog higher priority than the artwork? You’re probably going to have to compromise, so let your attorney know what you are willing to give up in order to keep your pet. If you absolutely can’t come to an agreement, custody of your dog will be decided by the court. While your divorce lawyer will do his best to protect your interests, the fate of your dog is in the judge’s hands.

Here are some things that may help your case:

  • You were the original owner of the dog.
  • You live in the home your pet is accustomed to.
  • You have more space for the pet.
  • You have been the primary care provider for the pet.
  • You have more time to exercise and play with your pet.
  • You have a statement from your vet showing that you bring in the pet for medical care.

Do you have additional questions about divorce in California? Request a free copy of San Francisco divorce attorney Paul Nathan’s book, What Every Woman in California Should Know About Divorce. To schedule an appointment, contact the Law Offices of Paul H. Nathan at 866-414-4091.