Michael Lodge, NCPM, CRTP - Nationally Certified Professional Mediator - www.lodge-co.com - Ph: 305-824-2963
In mediation, you never quite know what type of mediation will land on your desk and into your schedule. In the past two weeks I have had to only mediate two cases that involved a dog. And then one landed on my desk yesterday for a cat. Not a full divorce mediation, just on who is going to get the family pet. This is a very emotional subject in divorce where there are pets involved. So since so pet meditations have landed on my desk,s I have now named myself the Pet Mediator. No pet whispering in mediation.
So Jon and Janet (names made up) have a beautiful pet bull dog that they love greatly. The wife contacted me and said in her email that they had come to an agreement on all of the finances and assets from the marriage. The only thing remaining was who would get the dog. I provide my clients with a 30 minute consultation meeting on the process of mediation. They didn't want to make the decision, they wanted me the Mediator to make the decision. So I told them to agree to mediate and submit their intake documents to me to review, and we set a date for mediation. Two days prior to the mediation in came the in-take documents with their pictures and stories as to why they should get the dog.
We when first had our 30 minute consult the husband had failed to tell anyone that the dog was a support animal to his son (from another marriage) that was going through a very big healthcare crisis. The dog was his support. The wife did not know that his son was going through this crisis and that the dog had been issues a special care document to allow the son to live independently and to fly on plains with the dog. The dog was his support through his healthcare battle. So the story now changes that there is a son very dependent on the dog to help him through this crisis.
It was time to meet with both the husband and wife in mediation. I gave each person a 15 minute time period to present their argument as to why they should have the dog. Both presenting very good cases, both who really loved this dog. I knew this from the first consult with them that both persons love this pet, it was a family member that was obtained during the marriage. I could see in their faces that this dog as creating a big stress in resolving the end of this marriage. I presented various visitation plans for the dog. But the case always came back to the need of the child for this dog. It was pointed out that the son was very upset about losing this pet and it was creating a healthcare stress on him. It was important for me to understand the complexities of this health crisis of the son and decided I would talk to his doctor to understand the issues. Both husband and wife agreed to that it would be good to talk to the doctor.
Everything worked out in the end. The wife thought about it over the evening and sent me an email in the morning explaing she thought it would be best for the husband to keep the dog and that she would move on. A MOA was written, both signed, and the mediation was complete. Pets are a part of the family, and it is hard for couples to make that decision on who will get custody of that loved pet. I feel for them since I have three dogs and they are part of my home. However, these types of disputes can be worked through, providing the couple with a thought process of each others circumstances and needs. So I am not only a dog walker in real life with my own dogs and not the Pet Mediator.
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Michael Lodge is a Nationally Certified Professional Mediator specializing in business disputes, as well as family conflicts. He has written three books and hosts an international podcast on IHeartRadio and other podcast media stations.