The Gray Divorce Podcast: Episode 28 Pet Custody in Divorce with Karis Nafte

Andrew Hatherley |

In Episode 28 of The Gray Divorce Podcast, I welcome custody mediator and dog behavior consultant Karis Nafte. We discuss some of the key issues about how divorcing couples might approach the issue of pet custody and we highlight the importance of trying to appreciate custody from the animal’s perspective. 

We also discuss the differences between species, such as cats and dogs, and the differences between breeds as it applies to what might be the right dog or cat for the right person. 

We also touch on the impact of pet custody for older divorcees. Like many other divorce issues for older people, pet custody can take on a heightened importance due to issues of companionship and mental and physical health. 

Five Key Pieces of Advice in Pet Custody 

Deal with the issue of pet custody early in the divorce process, don't let it linger in the background. 

Consider the best interests of the pet when making long-term plans. Both dogs and cats typically do better staying in one home than shuttling back and forth. 

Acknowledge that most pets, particularly dogs and cats, have one primary person they bond with. Consider who the animal needs to be with to thrive. For instance, active dogs may connect better with the person who exercises them. A more docile animal may get along better with the calmer person. 

Shared custody is not always a good option. Moving between two homes can stress a pet. Cats, in particular, tend to be very attached to their territory. Shared custody does not usually work out well with cats. 

Giving permission to your former partner to visit anytime is problematic. The animal may end up in a state of confusion and while they might enjoy a reunion the disappointment when the other “parent” leaves may cause stress and confusion. 

When in doubt divorcing couples should be honest with themselves in trying to answer the question: “If your dog or cat could speak on his/her own behalf, what do you think they would say?” 

Pets and Seniors 

Research has shown that pet ownership provides an important form of social and emotional support for older people. Studies have shown less incidences of depression among older adults when there are strong attachments to a pet. Other health benefits can include lower blood pressure and cholesterol and improved cognitive functions. 

It is important for older pet owners to determine the best type of animal for them. If someone has mobility issues a cat may be the best option because they don't have to be walked. If an older person is in great shape, they can deal with a dog that requires more exercise. 

Contact Karias Nafte at

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