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More Than Property
Shared custody agreement recognizes dogs as family members
If you break up, will you share the dog?

At the risk of a little too much information, I’ve been divorced. I mention it because when my husband and I split, we had two dogs. We also shared an attorney who advised us against negotiating shared custody. He told us: It will just create opportunities for conflict down the road. At that time, more conflict was the last thing either of us wanted. In the end, my husband took the dogs. Separating them was inconceivable. I eventually ended up moving from New York, first to Maine and then to Seattle, knowing, all the while, the dogs enjoyed a consistent, stable life with my husband. Still I missed them terribly and sometimes I wish our attorney had been a little more creative in his thinking. I bet we could have shared the dogs successfully. I know several ex-couples for whom alternating dog custody works quite well.

 
When I read about a judge’s decision to award shared custody for a Lhasa Apso in Calvert County, Maryland, I was happy to see it. I was also horrified to discover that if they could not agree on terms, the dog could have been sold leaving the ex-husband and wife to split the proceeds. It’s that old saw about pets being property and not children. Still this decision is pragmatic and compassionate—and maybe will help establish a precedent. What I can’t understand is the six-month term. Six months! Why so long?

 

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Lisa Wogan lives in Seattle and is the author of, most recently, Dog Park Wisdom.

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