Divorce mediation has gone to the dogs

When Connecticut couples divorce, they often fight over material possessions such as houses, money, cars, collections and other high-ticket items. Many overlook one of the most prized possession of all: the family pet. It can leave us with emptiness when a beloved dog, cat or other animal disappears from our lives. The legal field understands that many of us consider our pets to be like our children, and that's how pet mediation was born.

Divorce mediation is growing in popularity because divorce is stressful enough without a lengthy court battle. Litigation means more money and a longer process. Many couples try to work things out on their own through mediation. They use this technique to negotiate finances and other assets. But before now, negotiating pet custody was virtually unheard of.

The pet industry is exploding at high rates. Combine that with ever-increasing divorce rates, and you can easily see the need for pet mediators to step in and help couples negotiate custody and other arrangements for their pets - similar to child custody arrangements.

How does pet mediation work? A mediator will sit down with the couple and discuss everything from visitation to feeding times to vet bills. This is similar to a brainstorming session. A typical mediation lasts several hours, at $200-$350 an hour.

Divorce mediation can help couples collaborate on many issues, including those that involve pets. Just like children, pets can also experience stress when an owner leaves his or her life, so it's important for couples to allow equal access to their pets.

Those in a similar situation should try to discuss their feelings with their ex-spouse. If communication is challenging, then it may be best to turn to mediation. In a court case, pets are treated as property, not family members. Therefore, a judge is not likely to negotiate visitation for Fido or Fluffy.