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In a divorce, don’t leave your furry friend’s fate to a judge

The topic of dog ownership in connection with the divorce is one that we do not discuss much in Texas. I will tell you that I am a dog owner, and I love my dog just like all of you love your dogs. She is a part of our family, and in many ways, I treat her much the same as I treat our children. We care about our dogs; we play with our dogs, and they are a massive part of many of our lives. You clicked on a family law blog post whose title references dogs and other pets, leading me to believe that you feel the same way. In some divorce cases, ownership and time with the dog can be a central issue, believe it or not.

That's not to say that you should inflate the importance of your dog in your life. Yes, if you are going through a hard time, your dog can lend you tremendous support and help you to get by during some rough stretches in your life. On the other hand, when your life is going great, your dog will often be part of those great memories for you and your family. Still, I want to take this opportunity to tell you that if you have children or significant property at stake in your divorce, then you should not focus all that much on your dog during the case.

Taking this advice does not mean that you don't love your dog. Sometimes we can lose track of what is essential in our lives during difficult times. The divorce certainly qualifies as a difficult time for just about anyone. I have seen sane, rational people going through divorces struggle with the circumstances of a divorce. When the case is all said and done, they will often shake their heads and laugh to themselves about how they thought one thing to be valid during the divorce that was not the case. With so much rattling around in our brains during a divorce, it should come to us as no surprise that we may lose track of reality to a certain extent during the case.

The reality of your circumstances is that your dog is not as important as the property you own; it is certainly not any more important than your children. That's not even to mention how your circumstances after the divorce, as well as where you end up physically in mentally in your ability to parent your children, are all more important than anything that happens with your dog, as well. I know this makes it seem like I have no heart or that I am unsympathetic to you if you are very concerned with the outcome of your case concerning your dog. However, I am telling you these things to offer you a reality check before you start your divorce and begin to focus on the wrong issues.

That is not to say that you should not consider the future of your dog, either. Like I said earlier, your dog can certainly be a member of your family and can be an essential part of your life. It becomes more difficult for you to balance those needs with other more pressing means in your divorce, but you can always take the time to plan out issues related to your dog after the divorce. Like with other issues related to your divorce, I would recommend that you begin to work out these issues with your spouse as quickly as possible at the beginning of your case. Why not take the time to figure out what you want to do with your dog and then move on to other important subjects like those dealing with your property and your children?

How to begin planning for what happens with your dog after your divorce

Like any other subject concerning your divorce, you should begin to plan it early on like you see a best-case scenario for you about your dog. Remember that however much you care for your dog and want them to spend time with you after the divorce, your spouse likely feels the same way. It would be great for you if your spouse were to tell you early on that they did not care what ended up happening with your dog about sharing time after the divorce. That way, you could keep your dog all to yourself and would not be concerned with having to split their time between you and your spouse.

However, that would make for a concise blog post and would not be very interesting to read, either. So, let's imagine a scenario where you are a parent and have two children with your spouse. You live in a relatively typical suburban environment with a family home that will need to be dealt with in the divorce and the usual assortment of retirement accounts, vehicles, and other personal property that will need to be divided up between the two of you. Attorneys represent both you and your spouse, but each of you has agreed to work out many of the issues in direct negotiations with the assistance of your attorneys. You can be amicable together and are willing to work out these issues as a team.

I am a big fan of working on the small things first and then dealing with the significant issues later on. I like to think of it as building momentum in your case when it comes to solving problems. For instance, it can be daunting to learn about all the different issues you and your spouse need to work through in a divorce. We have just talked about how many problems are involved in even a seemingly ordinary divorce. Is she's regarding childcare city, property division, and now your dog is all significant? With that said, the idea of building some momentum in accomplishing some goals early in the case can get your case started on the right foot.

To that end, I would recommend that you work to talk through your dog's issue early on in your divorce with your spouse. This does not mean that you all will be able to work through every point of your divorce like this, but you should attempt to do so as much as possible. For one, it limits the time commitment needed to negotiate through issues. Often, two married people will be able to more efficiently negotiate a problem than with attorneys getting in the middle. An attorney is needed to help people deal with complex, emotional, or challenging subject matter in some circumstances. However, if you do not necessarily think that the dog issue will be one of those, this is all the more reason for the two of you to solve the problem.

By working out these issues regarding your dog together with your spouse at the beginning of a case, you accomplish a handful of things right off the bat. For one, you can limit the issues that will need to be decided in your claim later on. Keep in mind that issues regarding your retirement accounts, financial investments, home, and long-term problems regarding your children cannot be decided at the beginning of a divorce. They can be negotiated through and settled upon, but no final orders for these issues can occur until the very end of your case. When it comes to an issue like your dog, why wait until the end to work your way through a problem that can be solved initially? Take this opportunity to check that box and move on from there. It's true that either you can always change your mind if something happens during the case that causes your circumstances to change but overall, it is nice to get a win and build some momentum for the rest of your case.

Another point I would like to make is that it would be silly, in my opinion, to go through the time and expense of a trial over an issue regarding your dog. This may offend some of you reading this blog post, but from my experience, I have found that people who go to trial over their dogs are rarely satisfied with the result of that trial. The time, expense, and hassle of going to practice should be reserved for critical issues to your long-term future, such as the well-being of your children or the division of extremely high dollar property issues. While your dog may be vital to you, there is no long-term future for you and your dog beyond a perhaps 10-year period.

This may sound callous and uncaring, but it is the truth. When so many people walk out of divorce not on firm ground financially speaking, it would be foolish to advise you any other way. I will walk you through some of the issues that I think need to be discussed about your dog, and then you can take these pieces of advice and utilize them in your circumstances. You know your life much better than I do, and I'm only making general contributions to this discussion. However, based on what I have seen from many people who have gone through a divorce, prolonging a case for the sake of your dog is most likely not a wise decision.

What issues need to be decided when it comes to your dog in a divorce?

The most obvious question that you will need to answer about your dog in the divorce is whether you and your spouse will work out a plan or your split custody for them. This sounds a little silly to talk about splitting custody for a dog, but you will be working on it. Much like you would think about spending a charge for your kids, you will need to determine a schedule for your dog to go back and forth between homes. Again, the most logical solution would be to have one parent of the dog take the dog for good, but if you find yourself in a position where you cannot bear to continue without being able to see your dog, then you will need to work out a split in custody to some extent.

This is not something that I am thinking of off the top of my head. There are divorces where dog parents will split custody in time with their coach between them. You all can think of whatever creative solutions you want to divide custody up so long as it is agreeable for the two of you. It is not as if your dog's emotional well-being is going to be severely stunted by losing time with either of you, so what I would advise is thinking about the division of time based on what is easier for both of your schedules. The closer you and your spouse live together after the divorce, the easier it would be to split custody on a day-to-day or multi-data multi-day period. However, a week on and a week of division may work better if you live further apart.

Finally, you may want to think about whether or not your dog has pet insurance and whether this will be a good idea to install if you did not. Otherwise, figuring out how you will divide costs for the dog between you and your spouse will be the last thing I would work out before the conclusion of negotiations regarding your dog. How cost will be divided and how reimbursement for expenses will be decided are more details that I would go through in earnest at the beginning of your divorce.

Questions about the issues discussed in today's blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

if you have any questions about the material contained in today's blog post; please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultation six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations can go a long way towards helping you work through your divorce issues and learn more about the services that our law office provides to our clients.

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