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Pet Custody Mediation: It is Never Too Late to Make a Pet Custody Agreement

Updated: Jan 23

When a couple separates, what happens to their pet? Though it is ideal to devise a plan before pet adoption, couples can establish a pet custody agreement at any point in their relationship – even after they break up. 

But how do you arrive at an agreement that is right for you, your ex, and most importantly, your beloved pet? Through mediation. Mediation involves meeting with a third-party mediator who will facilitate open communication between both parties in the couple. The mediator will guide you in establishing mutually agreed upon plans concerning your pet’s ownership, lifestyle, and personal and financial care post-separation, and record them in a pet custody agreement. Importantly, the mediation process can benefit couples with soured relationships as the mediator’s guidance encourages civil and productive discussion and helps ward off full-blown legal battles!

Important agreements made through pet custody mediation can include:

i. Ownership

In mediation, couples can reach an agreement on whether pet ownership will be transferred to one party or whether both parties will be equal owners. This process involves mutual communication about the pet’s best interests, specific needs, and whether the respective parties can fulfill them on their own. 

Couples are guided to discuss whether ownership requires the pet to live in the owner’s home, whether and/or how often the pet will live with each member of the couple, how long the pet can be left home alone for, and what living conditions the pet requires (e.g., space to move, indoor temperature, noise levels, what items the pet should have access to, and what items must be stored outside of the pet’s access). 

ii. Pet Care

Couples in pet custody mediation are guided to mutually define pet care, what it entails, how often it must take place, and how pet care duties will be distributed between them. Pet care can include: 

  • Walking and/or exercise

  • Continued access to food and water

  • Ensuring that the pet has pooped and peed

  • Examining the pet for any potential health changes

  • Playing with the pet and giving it affection

  • Grooming and hygiene

iii. Financial Responsibility

Through mediation, couples can reach an agreement on whether one or both parties will bear the financial responsibilities associated with the pet. This process involves discussing the pet’s needs, their approximate costs, and the frequency of such costs. Financial responsibilities can include:

The purchase of…

  • Pet food and treats 

  • Leashes, harnesses, and collars

  • Pet toys

  • Pet grooming supplies

  • Pet medications and medical supplies

The financial coverage of…

  • Medical bills

  • Training school

  • Grooming appointments

iv. Major Decisions Involving the Pet

In mediation, couples can define what constitutes a major decision involving the pet. From their definition, couples can agree on whether one or both parties will be responsible for major decision-making and whether such decisions must be communicated to the other party. Major decisions involving the pet can include:

  • Consenting to medical procedures

  • Beginning a new medication

  • Travelling with the pet 

  • Having the pet stay with a third-party

  • Breeding the pet

Interested in pet custody mediation? See our referral list here:

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