Pets help children cope with divorce

Pets help children cope with divorce

By Rosalind Sedacca, CDC

Abandoned pets are one of the many sad outcomes of divorce. Marital problems, conflict and ultimately divorce is behind a significant number of pet turn-ins for animal shelters every year.

Often one spouse doesn’t want to take the dog or cat while the other can’t keep them due to downsizing or reduced income. Many rental apartments won’t take pets over twenty pounds or allow more than one animal per unit.

Sometimes couples will fight dramatically over family pets. They bring the conflict into mediation or attorney negotiations with as much emotion as their battles over child custody.

In most states pets are still considered property, much like a car or antique furniture. The emotional connection to the family is not a factor in determining pet custody or relevance.

Heartbreaking outcomes for children

Frequently the divorcing couple doesn’t want to give up the pet, but circumstances just get in the way. And it’s especially heartbreaking when children are involved. Children are very attached to their pets. Losing a beloved friend and companion is always tough. Happening when their world is in emotional disarray can take its toll on kids of all ages, including teens.

If at all possible, parents should try to keep the family pet in the family. The child-pet relationship can be a trusted source of unconditional love and security when the child really needs it.

Don’t use pets as pawns

Shelter workers report the sad outcomes when pets are used as pawns in a divorce, as when children are exploited in the same way. Some angry spouses will give the animal to a shelter just to spite and hurt their soon-to-be Ex. Others may use the pet as a source of battle. They   know the bond gives one spouse leverage over the other in negotiating terms of the divorce. Veterinarians and animal shelters around the world see this on a routine basis. They also know the heart-breaking consequences for the animals involved.

Some couples will arrange for pet visits and some will agree to share costs of pet care following the divorce. But too frequently animals are abandoned at shelters, dropped off in the heat of an argument, and left to an uncertain future.

The Child-Centered Divorce Network encourages pet owners facing divorce to work together. Do what’s best for your pet, just as you try to do for your children. Take into consideration that pets are therapeutic assets in our lives. They can be especially helpful for adults as well as children when going through the challenges related to divorce.

Make responsible, compassionate decisions, knowing that your pets are attached to you just as you are to them. Abandoning your pet takes a heavy emotional toll on these innocent beings – just as with your children!

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Rosalind Sedacca, CDC is the founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network. She’s a Divorce & Co-Parenting Coach and author of the internationally acclaimed guidebook, How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide to Preparing Your Children – with Love! To get her free ebook on Post-Divorce Parenting, and learn about her coaching services, ebooks, programs and other valuable resources on divorce and co-parenting issues, visit 

©All Rights Reserved    Rosalind Sedacca