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How Divorce Affects Pets

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Divorce Law
Post Author Image This article was reviewed and approved for publication by Attorney Charlotte Christian.

How Divorce Affects PetsHaving a pet is like having another member of the family. However, there are different ways that divorce can affect them, both emotionally and concerning custody. Read our blog to learn more about how divorce can affect your pets.

Pet Custody

With a few exceptions, most states consider pets to be property. In many cases, the courts will give the pet to one spouse, which prevents the other spouse from seeing it. Alabama courts consider pets as property.

As with other property divisions, the courts have to consider a few factors to decide who gets custody of your pet. If you had the pet before the marriage, then the pet will stay with you after the divorce. However, division can become complicated if you and your partner got the pet during the marriage.

While the courts won’t always decide on custody arrangements for your pet, they will recognize a voluntary agreement. This voluntary arrangement can include visitation schedules or “custody” schedules, as well as what to do in the case of an emergency.

How to Create a Voluntary Arrangement for Your Pet

To create an arrangement that you and your partner agree on, you’ll likely need to speak with a mediator. Mediation allows you and your partner to talk honestly with a neutral third party who can help solve any problems.

Reaching a settlement for your pet will likely include a few different clauses. For example, you should talk about whether the pet will live in your house and have visitation with your partner or if the pet will split time between the both of you.

You’ll need to talk about who has the right to take the pet should one of you move, whether you’ll invest in pet insurance, and how you will split vet bills. You’ll also need to discuss who has the right to make decisions for the health and welfare of the pet.

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Emotional Effect on Pets

Getting a divorce is hard on everyone involved – pets included. While you can reason with your children, your pets don’t understand what is happening. They will likely be confused and may experience some difficult emotions.

Animals like cats and dogs are susceptible to separation anxiety, leading to bad behavior. They may begin to act out by destroying furniture, vocalizing excessively, or using the bathroom where they shouldn’t.

There are a few things you can do to help soothe your pet’s emotional distress.

  • Follow a routine. We may not realize it, but our pets need routine. It would help if you started a daily routine that your pet can predict as soon as you can.
  • Provide enrichment. Pets can suffer from anxious thoughts as well. To stave off some of that anxiety, you can provide more enrichment to their day. If your pet is food-oriented, you could try interactive food puzzles.
  • Create an area for relaxation. If your pet is prone to anxiety, creating a space for relaxation may help them through this life change. Put their favorite toys or blankets in this area, and they will begin to associate it with rest.

Consider What’s Best

We’ve established that animals need a routine, and significant upheaval can increase stress and anxiety. Try and think through your decision from your pet’s point of view – would moving every week to a different home be overwhelming?

Considering your pet’s needs will help you make the right choice for them. Divorce is a time of enormous upheaval, and it can become quickly overwhelming for you and your pet. You may have to have some hard conversations about what’s suitable for your situation with your partner.

Occasionally, getting a divorce will lead to couples rehoming their pets. Of people who take their pets to shelters, about 27% of them cite family-related issues. Avoid rehoming your pet by considering what works best for them and what will work for your life.

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Speak with an Experienced Attorney

Getting a divorce is hard, especially when pets and children are involved. To get a complete understanding of your options, you may want to consider speaking with an experienced attorney. A lawyer that focuses on family law can help you with your pet.

If you’re ready to take the next step in your life, but you’re worried about your pets, reach out to us here at The Law Offices of Charlotte Christian and Associates. We’ll stay by your side throughout the process, and we will be there for you every step of the way.

Experience the The Law Offices of Charlotte Christian and Associates difference. Connect with us online at or by phone at (256) 859-7277.

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