Shared Custody of Pets: How to Care for Your Animals with an Ex

Shared custody of pets: how to care for your animals with an ex

A breakup doesn’t have to mean saying goodbye to your pets

Whether you are leaving a long-term relationship or getting a divorce, pets can make any breakup more difficult. It may be unclear who should take ownership of your pet, and a great deal of animosity can arise if neither of you wants to give them up. Luckily, co parenting a dog, or any animal, is completely possible. Keep reading to learn more about shared pet custody, and how to give your furry family member the best life possible while sharing custody with your ex. 

Do I Have to Share Custody of My Pet with My Ex?

Pet custody laws vary by state, but generally, no, you have no legal obligation to share ownership of your pet. You never have to feel obligated to meet with or talk to an abusive or manipulative ex-spouse or partner because you once-shared a pet.

However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t co-parent a pet with your ex. If the two of you are on good enough terms to communicate and reason with one another, shared custody of pets can work. Co-parenting your ex may not be your ideal situation, but it can be worth it if both of you are committed to doing what’s best for your pet, 

Is shared custody bad for dogs/cats?

Speaking of what’s best for your pet, how will this affect them? Your animal’s welfare should come first, after all, and it’s important to understand the impact your divorce will have on their lives. 

Every animal is different, and if you are considering co parenting your dog, cat, or other animal, think about their personality and needs first. Some young or anxious pets might be overwhelmed and confused going between two homes and owners. Or, perhaps one of you has other pets that would not get along with the shared pet. 

You know your pet best, and whether or not it would do well in a two-home environment. In most cases, pets will adjust well to their new arrangement, and there are many benefits to sharing your pet after your breakup or divorce. 

Benefits of sharing a pet

Sharing custody of your pet with an ex might not be the most exciting idea, but, it isn’t all bad. In fact, sharing your pet can take some of the pressure off both of you as you navigate your breakup, and has many long-term benefits for you and your pet. 

You Can Split the Cost

One of the best benefits of sharing custody of your pet is that you will have another source of income to support their needs. Of course, what you and what your ex will pay for when it comes to your pet will have to be determined by the both of you, and who has the animal most frequently. 

But it can take a big financial burden off of you to split the cost of food, medications, pet daycare, and vet bills that come up, especially if you are still getting back on your feet after a divorce or long-term breakup. 

You’ll Have a Backup Sitter

Owning a pet is a huge responsibility in part because you must always think of them before doing things like going on a trip or even being gone too long during the day. Dog daycare and other animal care can be expensive, and might not be feasible for you after a breakup. When you share your pet with your ex, you have another person that you can turn to when you need someone to watch your pet. 

Your Pet Doesn’t Have to Lose a Parent

Animals have deep emotions, just like we do, and many pets can  have a negative emotional reaction to losing one of their humans. Sharing your pet with your ex means that both of you can still be in their lives, and they will have less of a chance of getting depressed and/or developing separation anxiety. If your pet loves you both, it can be extremely beneficial for their overall health and happiness to remain a part of both of your lives. 

How to Share Custody of a Pet with Your Ex

When you decide to share custody of a pet with your ex, you will want to take steps to ensure the process goes smoothly. Both you and your pet will have an easier, more positive experience when you and your ex-partner have taken the time to properly prepare. Here are some of the steps you can take to make the transition to co-parenting your pet as easy as possible: 

Communicate With Your Ex

This step may be the most difficult aspect of sharing a pet, but it’s easily the most important. Communication is key in any partnership, and while you aren’t together anymore, you will still have to come together to care for your pet. 

Make it a point to sit down, put both of your emotions aside, and talk rationally about your expectations when it comes to caring for your pet. When both of you know and understand what the other wants and expects, you can figure out what is feasible and how to make it work. 

Determine Who Will be the Legal Owner

For legal purposes, it’s important to decide who will be the legal owner of your animal. For cats and dogs, this is the person who pays for the annual pet license. Even if you split your time with your pet equally, this will still have to be one person, and it’s important to decide who that will be. 

Create a Joint Care Plan

Creating a care plan that you and your ex agree on can take a lot of the tension and unknowns out of sharing your pet between the two of you. It can be as detailed or simple as you two want. 

Plan out anything you two can think of, from which brand of food you’ll feed your pet, to which vet they’ll go to and who will pay for the vet care, and more. This way, when unexpected circumstances come up, you’ll at least have a plan for what to do next. 

Let Your Vet Know

Whether you keep bringing your pet to the same vet as when you were together, or a new vet, it’s important to let them know about your co-parenting situation. This way, your vet can ensure to contact both parties before making any decisions or doing any procedures, and you won’t be kept out of the loop if your ex takes your pet to the vet without you.

Should You Share a Pet With Your Ex?

You know your situation and your pet the best, and can only determine for yourself if it is the right decision to share your pet with your ex. Though it may be difficult, the experience can be extremely rewarding when you see your pet flourish with the two people they love the most. 

Here at Divorcist, we know the true cost of divorce and long-term breakups is much more than letting go of your relationship. We are passionate about helping people navigate this confusing-but-freeing time, and have resources to help you flourish in your new life. Make sure to check out our blog for more helpful resources, and sign up for our newsletter so you never miss an update!