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Can A Pet Help A Child Through A Divorce?

Dogs, cats and other pets are considered by most pet owners to be part of the family. In the event of a divorce, these family members can prove therapeutic for children (and adults too).

Studies have shown that a pet can help people going through a difficult time. They can improve a person’s overall mood and reduce anxiety. Simply petting a cat, dog or other animal can be calming for a child dealing with a crisis such as the divorce of their parents. Further, having a pet can give the child a responsibility to focus on, and a nonjudgmental ear. A pet can help a child feel less lonely.

These benefits are not only for children. Adults can reap the same benefits. However, children are often the most in need of those benefits during a divorce, though they may not be able to verbalize those needs.

We Already Have A Pet. What Should We Do With The Pet In The Divorce?

Under Ohio law, pets are considered property and subject to the same property division rules as a nonliving item. Legally, if the pet was acquired during the marriage, it is marital property and one parent will typically take ownership of the animal. If the pet was owned by one of the parties prior to the marriage, it is separate property and will stay with that owner.

If the pet and child have a strong bond, care should be taken to maintain that bond if at all possible. That may mean the pet traveling back and forth with the child from one parent’s house to the other parent’s house, mirroring child custody arrangements.

We Do Not Have A Pet. Should I Get My Child A Pet?

Pet adoption should be taken seriously. While a pet may have therapeutic value for the child, parents must weight the pros and cons of bringing a pet into the family in the midst of a divorce. Will the child and parents have the time to train the pet? If the child is too young to take care of the animal by themselves, will the parents be willing and able to do the work necessary to keep the pet happy and healthy?

If parents decide that they can bring a pet into their child’s life during the divorce, care should be taken in determining the type of pet. A smaller pet, like a small dog, cat or even a guinea pig, may make it easier for the pet to travel back and forth with the child. While puppies and kitties may be adorable, perhaps adopting an older pet that is already trained makes more sense in this situation. If possible, the whole family should work together to find a pet that works for everyone involved.

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