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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. lisawogan.com

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Submitted by Anonymous | July 9 2010 |

OMG be glad you did it your way. My ex-husband and I figured we'd wing it. We fought ALL THE TIME over our Doxie. ALL THE TIME. He let her get fat. Didn't take care of her. He thought I didn't feed her enough. Only one good lesson came out of it, I'm glad I divorced him.

Submitted by Jane | July 10 2010 |

Great topic. When my husband and I divorced our german shepherd mix went with him initially. He'd had Jack since a pup and I came along later; Jack was strongly bonded to Charlie. I cried and missed Jack terribly but knew he was in good hands. Several years later Charlie. accepted a job out of the country and Jack came to live with me in his final four years. I was so glad to be able to give Jack a stable, quiet life as a senior dog. I was in a relationship again and Sal fell in love with Jack right away. When C. returned to the US he agreed that Jack had a better living situation than he could give at the time. The divorce was not amicable, rather it was distant neutrality, but our love for that dog was the only thing that kept us in communication. After Jack died, I informed Charlie and the communication ended. It makes me cringe to think that adults would sell a dog and split the money if they couldn't agree on living terms with the dog. That is not an action motivated by love for the animal.

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