Would You Pay $150,000 to Keep Your Pet in a Divorce?

How to prioritize in your divorce negotiation

It’s common enough for people to go a “bit crazy” during their divorce proceedings, but the case of a San Diego pointer-greyhound mix named Gigi was so outlandish that it managed to make national headlines. Gigi belonged to Dr. Stanley Perkins and his wife, Linda. When the couple got divorced, they initially agreed to share custody of Gigi, but when this arrangement didn’t work out, Gigi became the subject of a fierce “dog fight” (sorry, couldn’t help ourselves) over custody. Two years and $150,000 in legal fees later, Linda was finally granted custody of Gigi in 2000. Was the fight and the cost worth it? Only Linda Perkins can answer that question, but there’s a larger point to consider. If you are contemplating divorce, you will need to decide what you want out of the divorce and how much you are willing to fight (and pay) for it!

What Are Your Divorce Priorities?

Ideally, in a divorce, every asset is negotiable. In real life, however, certain objects have an intangible value to their owner. Maybe you could never imagine leaving your home, or you giving up that diamond necklace you bought yourself as a reward for a promotion at work. Pets are also a great example. Your dog is worth so much more than the amount you paid at the shelter or pet store. Owners prove that every day when they spend hundreds of dollars a year on special food or thousands on medicine and surgery for their pets. (In most states, pets are treated as personal property in divorce proceedings, the same as the sofa, but this is beginning to change.)

If there are possessions that you absolutely want to take in the divorce, let your divorce attorney know right away and then get ready to start negotiating.

How Far Are You Willing to Go?

Everything is on the table in a divorce negotiation, and depending on your situation, you may be able to get most of what you want. If your spouse is willing to play ball and especially if you can both agree to divorce mediation, you may be able to make a few “trades” with your husband to get what you want. Maybe you let him keep his car in exchange for the diamond necklace, or you agree to buy out his equity in your home. (Should you keep the home after divorce?)

The trouble happens when both you and your spouse want to keep the same asset, or when your husband refuses to negotiate. If he knows how much you want that diamond necklace, he might try to negotiate for far more than what it’s worth or to demand it for himself just out of spite.

In these cases, you’ll need to decide just how far you want to go. We encourage you to be willing to let even your most prized possessions go if the price gets too high. After all, you may get your diamond necklace in the end, but if you have to spend $20,000 in legal fees for a $2,000 necklace, you just got a raw deal. The smug satisfaction of winning will wear off soon when you realize that $20,000 would be far more useful helping you re-build your financial life after divorce.

It’s better to fight only for the things you really, truly can’t live without. That might mean saving your capital for custody disputes for your children or your “fur children.”

Not sure what to expect in a divorce? Learn how to prepare for a divorce at your next local Second Saturday Divorce Workshop.

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