Who Gets to Keep the Dog? Pet Custody After a Breakup

By: Barahona Consulting & Mediation | Published 09/28/2020


Remember that scene in Legally Blonde when Elle Woods helps her friend get her dog back from her ex?  The sad truth is that many former couples are fighting it out over pet custody every day.  The law provides clear guidance for child custody when a couple splits up, but what about the pets?

In our society, people consider their pets to be members of the family.  Facebook postings of “Fur Babies” are almost as common as postings of human babies.  Unfortunately the law doesn’t recognize the importance pets play in our lives.  The courts generally assign value on the pet as it would on any material possession - replacement cost.  How much would it cost to acquire another animal of the same breed at a shelter or from a breeder?

So just how does the issue of pet custody get decided after a couple breaks up?  The legal system is very limited in the scope of what can be considered.  Who purchased the pet?  Who paid for the care?  Who performed the daily care?  Additionally, the cost of going to court can be prohibitively high considering the expense of hiring lawyers and paying court fees.  An effective alternative to court is mediation.

In mediation, the parties have an opportunity to sit with a trained mediator who serves as a neutral third party.  The mediator facilitates conversation and helps guide the parties to a solution that works for them.  Creative solutions, beyond the scope of what the court can consider, are often achieved.  In mediation, shared custody and even pet support agreements can be crafted - results the court system would not be able to produce..  

If you need help with pet custody issues, please call for a no-cost, no-obligation consultation.  We would love to have the opportunity to help you and your pets.

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