You may consider your pet part of the family but, when it comes to divorce, pets are typically considered personal property and dealt with as such. It can be upsetting to think of your beloved animal being demoted to such a place, but in many courts’ eyes, creating a custody plan for a pet would be like trading a big-screen TV back and forth from week to week. The way it works out, one half of the couple is inevitably going to get less time with their once-shared pet, if they get any time at all. If you are the one who is lucky enough to keep your family pet in your divorce, your pet is going to need some TLC to adjust to the changes in your family.
Animals can have very human needs. Here are some responsibilities of pet ownership that you’ll have to tend to even more diligently to help your pet weather their own divorce from your partner and their known way of life:
1. Maintain Routine
Moving to a new place can be traumatic for a pet. Even staying in the same home but realizing familiar items and people are no longer in it can be difficult for an animal to understand. They may lash out with misbehavior or undesirable acts like scratching or chewing the furniture, bodily function slip-ups, biting or growling at familiar people, and more. Separation anxiety is a real thing for some animals, and it’s not beyond dogs in particular to experience anger, relief, stress, sadness, and joy as the turmoil of a divorce swirls around them. Maintaining an established daily routine as far as who walks, feeds, or sleeps with the animal is important to helping your pet feel safe and happy.
2. Be Consistent
When children are going through a difficult time, parents may be more lenient because they feel bad for whatever trauma or discomfort that child is enduring. This always ends up with very bad results, and the same thing will happen if you go too easy on your pet. If your dog wasn’t allowed on the couch pre-divorce, they shouldn’t be allowed on there post-divorce if you’re inevitably going to get upset about the shedding they’re doing which is why you established the no-couch rule in the first place. Be consistent about discipline and house rules. Your dog will appreciate the norm staying the norm.
3. Share the Love
The emotional connection between people and pets is undeniable, and your pet will know that something isn’t quite right with you. They are highly attuned to emotions and moods, and fights and tension won’t go completely ignored by your pet. Divorce can be overwhelming and all-encompassing. Your pet’s emotions can mirror yours, so keep that in mind as you navigate your divorce. Don’t neglect your animal or allow your pet’s needs to fall to the wayside. Keep giving them the hugs and snuggles and playtime they deserve and are used to. And allow your pet to comfort you, rely on him for love and affection, and make sure you’re not taking any anger or resentment you have for your former spouse out on your pet.
4. Consider Your Children
Children of divorce may really come to rely on your family pet as the transitions that accompany divorce take their toll. Even though it may be less than ideal, you may be able to informally include your family pet in the parenting time agreement so that the pet travels with your child to and from each parent’s house. Whether you have children or not, if you already think about your pet like a child, consider how they would feel if left alone or kenneled often. Pets do best when they have someone to keep them company and they aren’t locked up all the time. Make sure you have room in your new life for your pet.
5. Make the Right Decision for Your Pet
Since joint custody of your pet is an unlikely scenario in any divorce settlement, only one of you is going to walk away with the animal. Are you the best animal parent? Maybe your pet loves your ex best. It can hurt to admit that, but it’s ultimately better for your pet to live with the human who’s going to make them the happiest. Otherwise, you’ll be the disgruntled pet owner living with an animal who’d rather be with someone else, and that can feel like being in a not-so-great marriage all over again. Save yourself the grief, make the right choice for your pet, and consider starting over with another animal in your new life.
Pets don’t have any concept of time, and the divorce transition can be very difficult on them. As a pet owner, you have the responsibility to consider the best interests of your animal and the human-animal bond. If you have concerns about how your pet will be affected by your divorce, ask your Michigan divorce attorney the questions you have, especially if they concern financial support in regard to pet care, feeding, and insurance. Contact Michigan Divorce Help in Mt. Clemens, MI, to schedule your initial interview today.