How to get rid of your spouse but keep the dog

Attorney skilled in matrimonial law tells how to prove that Fido will be happier with you than your soon-to-be ex

Originally printed in The Mercury News

Divorcing couple have long fought over parental custody, but more and more, judges are being asked to decide who gets the dog.

The subject is becoming so prevalent that New York-based attorney Jacqueline Newman, managing partner of Berkman Bottger Newman and Schein, a leading Manhattan divorce law firm, has written a book,  “Soon-to-Be Ex: A Woman’s Guide to Her Perfect Divorce and Relaunch” (Book Publishers Network, $18.95), that includes tips on how to get custody of Fido.

And don’t worry, men, the advice applies to you, too.

The law regards pets as property, akin to the sectional sofa or the 2016 Honda, but lately, Newman says, judges are being asked to consider the pet’s well-being and happiness.

Here are some of her tips for getting the upper paw in pet custody cases.

  • If you are the primary caretaker of a pet or pets, my advice is to keep logs of everything you do for them on a daily basis. When the judge is faced with having to make a decision, evidence of your involvement in vet visits, shopping for pricey pet food, day-to-day management, and setting up play dates with other pups will definitely help your case.
    Ultimately, you need to be able to show a court that you are and have been during the marriage the primary caretaker for the pet.
  • Keep a journal of the times you take the dog to the vet and a detailed list of what you do to care for your pet. You need to be able to show the judge that your beloved pup will thrive best in your care.
  • Courts do not have an apparatus to measure your love for your pets, but if you are putting time and energy into making sure they are healthy, happy, and well-fed, this will speak volumes. And the court will take notice.
  • My last piece of advice for pet owners who are facing a divorce and managing the future of their pets is to not take the matter lightly. I have seen pet custody cases that had to go through an endless string of appeals. Although it is not very common, there can be fierce litigation over who gets to keep the pet or how the expenses are to be shared. I have been involved in settlements where cost is split 70-30 and time is split 50-50, and it is true that there are judges who go to great lengths to consider what will make a pet happy.

Buy Jacqueline's Book

The New Rules of Divorce is the definitive guide to navigating divorce in today’s world.