If you're divorcing your husband—the first one or from a subsequent marriage—or even if you're breaking up a non-marital domestic partnership, you still may be facing a custody issue…of your pet or pets.
People can get very attached to their cats and dogs, and this is even truer of people who, not raising children, pour their affections and attentions onto their household pets. If the husband (or male partner in a non-marital situation) is less attached than the wife (or female partner)—or vice-versa—deciding who will get to keep the dog(s) or cat(s) is pretty easy. The problems start when both are very attached to the animal. (For the sake of this article, from here on out I’m going to talk about one dog, unimaginatively named "Fido." The principle is the same, though, whether it's a dog, a cat, or more than one animal.) Problems also crop up when one or the other of the couple uses Fido as a pawn.
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A pawn, you ask? Yes. The male half of the couple knows the woman is very attached to Fido, so he demands to keep the dog himself, not out of great love for the dog but to make the woman unhappy for breaking up with him. Or, again assuming the breakup was her idea, not his, he uses the dog to keep her in his life to some degree, or even try to get her back. Either he tries to hold on to the dog so the woman will have to come to his house to see Fido, or he wheedles that if she wants to have Fido fully in her life again, she could reunite with him. Or he tries to use her visits with Fido as an opportunity to get her into bed. ThirdAge: Your Divorce Checklist - What You Need
Of course, if the man is more principled than that, or if he was agreeable to the breakup, custody and visitation of Fido need not be problematic. Arrangements can be quite similar to those pertaining to children: The man may get custody on weekends while the woman has Fido during the week, or vice-versa, or they may alternate weeks, with him having the dog one week and her having the dog the next.
The point is that, as any animal-lover will tell you, Fido is a family member, not a mere possession and, that being the case, squabbles over custody are perfectly understandable. But squabbling is unfortunate, and if you can work things out amicably, you certainly should try.
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For tips on how to address pet custody questions constructively, read the rest of the article at ThirdAge: Breaking Up Involves Your Pets, Too.
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