When Kelsey Ramirez and Zach Woolhouse decided to divorce, they knew that joint custody would be the best choice for them… and “Moo,” their petite chocolate brown dachshund.
DIVORCE – GOING TO THE DOGS
Divorce is difficult for anyone. Having to divide assets and determine spousal support and child custody can feel almost impossible to the couple that seemingly cannot agree on anything. But what about the dogs? No doubt that pets become part of the family. So what happens to them when Mom and Dad decide that their marriage is no longer working.
That’s why Ramirez and Woolhouse decided to bring in St. Paul mediator Dan Simon.
Mediation when it comes to divorce is becoming more commonplace. It’s a perfect setting for couples looking to avoid the intrinsic litigious nature of standard divorces.
During the mediation process, you and your spouse work with a third party mediator to discuss and resolve all the aspects of your divorce. The mediator serves as a facilitator to help the both of you come to a resolution so that you can draft a divorce agreement that works for the both of you. If you’re considering divorce, consider taking a mediation approach. Benefits of mediation include:
- Less expensive than a standard court trial or a series of hearings.
- You and your spouse control the process.
- You can still work with a personal lawyer to help resolve issues. In this case, you, your lawyer, and your spouse, and your spouse’s lawyer would all sit down with the mediator.
- Ability to arrive at a resolution that is fair to both parties, rather than having a solution imposed upon you by a court’s decision.
- Confidentiality, with no public record of what occurs during mediation sessions.
- Final settlement of all of the issues in your divorce.
- Often times the mediation process improves communication spouses, thus helping you avoid future conflicts.
WHEN NOT TO CHOOSE MEDIATION
While mediation is very effective, there are some cases when it might not be the best option for divorcing couples.
While mediation works for most couples, in cases of domestic violence you might want to consider another method of divorce. While some who have experienced abuse in their marriages find it empowering to meet on a level playing field that is offered by a mediation session; others find it easier to just work with a lawyer in order to avoid having to come face-to-face with their spouse.
Abusing the Process
Because a mediator can’t order eithis spouse to come to a decision, a person who wants to delay the proceedings or avoid paying support is able to abuse the mediation process by agreeing to mediation and then stalling the process. If you know that your spouse might be apt to do this, and you need decisions about support or other issues to be made early in the process, you may decide that court is the best option for you. You are always able to pursue the mediation process later on, once the urgent needs are handled.
For a divorce mediation to be successful, both people must show up and be willing to negotiate in order to come to a compromise. While you may think that you and your spouse are unable to see eye-to-eye on anything, don’t rule out the mediation process. What you may not be considering is the fact that your spouse will want to reach a conclusion as quickly as you on child support and custody, property division, and even dog custody, and therefore you might find the mediation process is much easier than you think.
Even the oddest of things can be decided during mediation – even dog custody.
DOGS OF DIVORCE
Mediator Dan Simon is in the process of putting together a reality TV show he calls “Dogs of Divorce” about couples who have turned to mediation in hopes of coming to an agreement when it comes to dog custody. Simon’s goal with the show is to encourage happier resolutions for divorcing couples with no pets at all.
Simon understands divorce and, as a mediator, works to help divorcing couples tap into what he calls their “natural desire to treat each other fairly.”
Simon, who has a master’s degree in counseling psychology in addition to a law degree, feels that “Focusing on dogs is a way to make it [divorce] less heartbreaking and more palatable.”
For the reality TV show, he has teamed up with former Twin Cities radio man Bob Yates and Heidi Marie Johnson, whose job, she said, is “to speak for the animals,” to work with couples that “have had serious conflict over co-parenting plans for their dog.”
PETS AS CHILDREN
Dogs and divorce have been a topic for years now. Simon has observed that most clients that are focused on dog custody don’t have children. In these cases, it seems the pets are their children. As such, their custody must be decided on when the marriage turns to divorce. Simon would like to help these couples avoid full-blown litigation.
As reported on divorce.com, a poll of 1,500 members of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, found a 25 percent jump in pet custody issues over recent years. Dogs were at the center of 88% of those custody battles. Cats only made up 5 percent. The issue has become such a large one that books, such as“What About Wally? Co-Parenting a Pet With Your Ex” have been written.
“This is clearly not trivial,” Simon agreed. “Sometimes, the relationship with the dog is particularly important when your relationship with your spouse is changing. It really is heartbreaking to come to terms with the fact that you may have to spend less time with the dog.”
As Simon has seen in his practice, couples typically decide on a primary owner. Shared custody is also common, or a spouse is open to exes taking the dog on walks. If kids are involved, it’s usually advised that the dog travels back and forth with the kids.
JOINT CUSTODY PLAN FOR MOO
As Ramirez and Woolhouse found with their own dog, Moo, joint custody works best. Even after finding a solution though, they find that exchanging him in a busy parking lot is not the best way to hand him off. Even after finding a solution, the two still need to find a way to “co-parent.”
Simon’s ultimate goal is “to spread the word that people can rise up and take the high road with each other. No matter how angry and distrustful you are, if you take responsibility for how you behave, it’s very likely you can get to a good place.”
GETTING STARTED WITH MEDIATION
Although each mediator has his or his own approach, the process will most likely start with a phone call. During this interview, you’ll speak with eithis the mediator or an assistant to provide background information about your marriage, your family, and what the issues are. You’ll then be asked to set up a meeting, during which you’ll want to bring information about bank accounts, child visitation, and the other aspects of your marriage. You mediator will then continue to guide you through the process until you all come to a decision about the divorce settlement.
WORKING WITH A DIVORCE ATTORNEY
Divorce is one of the most difficult and challenging experiences a person will ever have to go through in life. It can affect all aspects of one’s existence, from your physical well-being to your emotional, psychological and financial stability. Diving marital property, deciding on child custody, and figuring out spousal support can be almost impossible if both you and your spouse are able to see eye-to-eye on anything. Divorce is never easy, yet it can definitely be made easier with the support and professional assistance of a skilled divorce attorney. Having worked within the field of family and divorce for over a decade within the state of California, San Diego divorce lawyer 619 Divorce has experienced a wide spectrum of cases involving divorce, spousal support, alimony, child custody and child support. With many years of combined experience working within this field, the lawyers at (619) Divorce are experts in the field of divorce and family law.
San Diego, CA 92101
Phone: (619) 431-3131