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Negotiating a dog parenting plan during your divorce

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When you and your spouse picked up an adorable puppy from the shelter, you probably assumed your marriage would outlast the dog’s lifespan. Now that you are heading for divorce, though, you may have some concern about what happens to the pooch. Though every dog has a unique personality, they are property under Pennsylvania law. Therefore, like other parts of the marital estate, dogs are subject to equitable distribution during divorce proceedings.

Accordingly, if you and your partner cannot reach an agreement, a judge is likely to award the dog to either you or your soon-to-be ex-spouse. On the other hand, if you are willing to explore a friendly divorce instead of a bitter court battle, you may be able to negotiate a pet parenting plan.

Caregiving duties

The first step in drafting a comprehensive plan for your dog is to address care giving duties. This includes designating who primarily houses and cares for the animal. You could pick one person to do these tasks or split obligations equally.


Owning a dog is not cheap. Therefore, your pet parenting plan should include provisions that address food, exercise, grooming, veterinary care and other dog-related expenses. Additionally, you may want to set up a designated checking account to use exclusively on pre-determined purchases for the dog.


You and your ex-spouse cannot both always have the dog. Rather, you must negotiate a visitation schedule. When you do, define how, when and where you plan to exchange the animal.

Dispute resolution

Even if you spend some time negotiating a good dog parenting plan, you may eventually disagree about something related to the animal. Consequently, include a process for resolving disputes. This may be arbitration, mediation or something else.

While you may not have children with your spouse, you treat your dog as a member of the family. Instead of risking losing the animal during an adversarial court battle, carefully negotiating a dog parenting plan can be a better approach.

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