When couples split, custody battles occur over dogs as much as they do over children. Pet custody can be a tricky and emotional world. In the past five years, 27 percent of lawyers reported an increase in pet custody cases, most of these being over dogs.
When Formosa Hsu and her ex-partner Joseph split, the couple didn’t have any children but they did spend years trying to decide how to split the time with their beagle mix Pupineya, a dog they adopted together when he was 3 months old.
Joseph, a 33-year-old software engineer, could not bear the thought of not seeing his dog again, and Formosa felt the same.
In the end, they finally struck a deal, with the dog splitting his time between the two, even though the former couple live on opposite sides of the country. The dog spends six months in Virginia, and six months in British Columbia.
“These days, pets are just as important as kids, sometimes even more important,” says Debra Hamilton, a mediator from Armonk, New York.
Years ago, the issue of pet custody rarely emerged in divorce proceedings. Now you see it in about half of cases, Hamilton estimates. With about 10 percent of divorces getting “rough and rocky” with custody battles over dogs and cats, she says. When couples do have children, the typical arrangement is that the dog or cat will go wherever the kids go.
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Custody battles over dogs can also involve money issues, as raising a dog can be expensive, especially in larger cities. A higher earning partner may end up having to give dog support to cover pet care costs, even if they only have the dog half the time.
After Formosa and Joseph finally settled their custody case over Pupineya, with Joseph having to handle most of the pet care costs and cross country airplane expenses, both are happy the matter is settled.
“My life was never complete until adopting the pup,” says Formosa.