By Chris Taylor
When couples split, custody is one of the hardest issues they have to resolve. And that goes for dogs and other furry family members as much as for children.
Formosa Hsu and her ex-partner Joseph, who did not have kids, spent years in mediation to decide how to split the time of their little beagle mix Pupineya, whom they had adopted when he was 3 months old.
For Joseph, a 33-year-old software engineer, the idea that he wouldn’t see the dog again was the “worst feeling in the world,” he remembers. Hsu, 42, a beauty consultant from Charlottesville, Virginia, says she was “devastated.”
Finally they struck a deal: The dog would split his time between the two, even though they now live on opposite coasts. Six months in Virginia, six months in British Columbia.
Welcome to the tricky and highly emotional world of pet custody.
“I tell attorneys who are handling divorces, number one, ask if they have kids. Number two, ask if they have pets,” says Debra Hamilton, a mediator from Armonk, New York, who successfully handled Pupineya’s case. “These days pets are just as important as kids. Sometimes even more important.”
In the past, the issue of pet custody almost never emerged in divorce proceedings. Now it comes up in about half of cases, Hamilton estimates. About 10 percent of divorces end up getting “rough and rocky” over dogs and cats, she says.
Picture: Szakalová Edina (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons