Bartholomew & Wasznicky LLP
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Sacramento, California

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Digging into pet custody: who gets the dog in a divorce?

Relinquishing the beloved family pet in a divorce tends to be a sore and contentious subject. Neither person wants to give up a member of the family, but parting ways come with sacrifices. Unfortunately, California courts treat animals as property and the idea of selling the pet and splitting the cash can be nauseating.

How do you and your ex decide who gets the furry friend? Ask yourself these things before making any pet custody decisions.

Who can afford to care for the pet?

You already know that pets come with a price tag, but many people are shocked to find out just how much it costs to raise a pet. The People's Dispensary for Sick Animals reports that the cost of raising a cat over its lifetime can be anywhere from $21,000 to $30,000. For dogs, the price rises anywhere from $27,000 to $42,000.

When making the decision, consider who can provide the animal with food, routine medical care, toys, grooming and emergency surgeries for many years to come.

Who has more time and space?

If one of you will be gone for nine hours a day while the other works from home, you should be reasonable when making the arrangements. Dogs require stimulation and exercise and you need to think about what living situation will be in the dog's best interest. If one of you lives in a one-bedroom apartment in the city and the other lives in a home with a yard, give your pet the space they need.

Is it possible to share custody?

You've considered the factors above but still aren't willing to part ways with your animal. When this is the case, some pet parents resort to a custody schedule, particularly when kids are involved. Pets provide immense emotional support to children and can be a source of stability during the turbulence of a divorce. You may choose to trade off custody of the pet when you are dropping off your child. If no kids are involved, you can make other arrangements based on each of your schedules.

Be considerate of which arrangement will give your pet the highest quality of life possible. Moving an animal from one city to another can result in a great deal of stress and money. The right resolution isn't always the easiest to swallow, but keep your pet's health and well-being at the forefront of your mind when making the final call.

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