5 Things You Need to Know about Pet Custody and Divorce

pet custody

By Karis Nafte, Certified Dog Behavior Consultant, Accredited Mediator, Founder, Who Keeps the Dog?

You don’t have to tell me. I know how much you love and care about your dog. Divorce is beyond difficult, and when you add in pet custody, it can get a lot more complicated, painful and emotional. That said, have conversations about pet custody are a must. They are so important because the outcome of who keeps the dog affects parents, kids and of course, the dog.


I have written these five tips to keep the process of discussing pet custody both peaceful and productive to help facilitate a resolution that is the best one for your beloved pet.


1. Start talking about your dog as soon as possible when your relationship has ended.

I know the idea of considering your dog’s custody may feel too overwhelming or emotional to even think about, but it is much better to address it than ignore it until you have no choice.  It is normally a relief once the conversation is started, and more importantly, this will stop the question of “who keeps the dog?” looming around in the background over the rest of the issues that need to be negotiated. Making the choice between the two of you can also help avoid the worst-case scenario when a negotiation about a dog turns into a fight that may get taken to court.


Who Keeps the Dog?


2. Agree between both of you to make a long-term plan that is the best for your dog.

It may sound simple and obvious, to do what is best for the dog, but it is a very easy perspective to lose, especially when things become heated between the two people! Even with good intentions, the dialogue may easily shift into a fight between you, instead of genuinely discussing the question from the dog’s point of view.

3. Most dogs do have one primary person they are bonded with, even when they live with a couple.

Look at you, your ex and your dog objectively; what does your dog need to thrive and be content?  If you have a very active, busy dog the person who exercises the dog the most is probably the one the dog is the most attached to.  Or, if your dog is a more sedate and nervous soul, they may gravitate to the individual who has a more naturally calm nature. And other dogs just simply have a clearer connection with one person.

4. If you are thinking about shared pet custody, do so wisely.

Not all dogs cope permanently moving between two homes, and for dogs who become stressed and anxious it is certainly not fair. Living peacefully with shared custody is much more likely for dogs who are easy-going, confident, healthy and have a mellow character. If your dog is elderly, a guarding or herding breed, comes from a stressful background, or doesn’t handle change well, living in two homes is likely to be distressing for them. In addition, if you and your ex are not likely to be able to maintain a sense of peace between you then there is a good chance long term shared custody will stress your dog out.

5. Giving permission to your former partner to visit the dog anytime usually doesn’t work out for the dogs in the long run.

If your ex has agreed to let you keep the dog it is a kind and reasonable thing to offer them to come and visit the dog whenever they want, especially if you are relieved that they are not fighting for pet custody. However, this means you are also giving your ex permission to step in and out of your life for potentially many years to come. If you do not have any children that would otherwise keep you in contact, allowing for ongoing “anytime” visits like this will keep the two of you in contact and communication when you might be better off with a clear and clean separation from each other.

From the dog’s side, visits from a previous pet parent can be unsettling. The reunion is certainly very exciting, yes, but the disappointment when that person drops off the dog and disappears is the hard part. again may cause them more stress or confusion. If a dog is then left wondering when that special person will reappear at the door it can result in anxious and stressed out behavior’s.

My job as a pet custody mediator is to help couples find a solution that feels fair and reasonable to both parties, and, primarily ensures the happiness and comfort of their beloved pet in the long term. As a dog behaviorist, I help owners understand and improve behavior challenges that may appear at any time, with a special spotlight on divorce, family transitions and integrations of new people and animals.

Karis Nafte, Certified Dog Behavior Consultant and Accredited Mediator, Founder, Who Keeps the Dog?


About Karis:

I am a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (IAABC) specialising in Pet Custody. I have a deep understanding of animal behavior and psychology enabling me to teach and advise divorce professionals and individuals how to resolve pet custody issues by placing the pets best interest first.

The Pet Custody Course – designed to give lawyers and mediators new insight, clear understanding and tools to offer their clients solutions for the long-term well-being of their dogs.

During the course you will learn:
-The impact of shared custody vs sole custody on dogs

-Models for shared custody plans that best suit dogs
-Best practice for transitioning to sole/shared custody, common mistakes to avoid
-Humanising, weaponizing, and bargaining over pets

Pet Custody Mediation services – As a qualified Family Mediator I help couples decide what is best for their dogs in a breakup.

Together we will explore:

-Shared custody vs sole custody
-Breed, age, bonding of your dogs.

Working directly with me is easy! Here’s what you need to do:

Go to my website: www.whokeepsthedog.com
Fill out the contact form and I will be in touch with you to set up a time.

Alternatively, email me directly: karis@whokeepsthedog.com

I work globally and will assist you in exactly what you need to know in order to develop your skills in this area or resolve your own challenging and often difficult decisions of who keeps the dog?

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    One Response to “5 Things You Need to Know about Pet Custody and Divorce”

    1. Hondenspeelgoed

      In divorce, pet custody can be emotionally charged. Understand state laws on pet custody, prioritize the pet’s welfare over personal conflicts, consider joint custody or visitation arrangements, document care responsibilities, and seek legal guidance for fair resolutions.


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