In too many divorce cases, couples’ inability to make peace with each other can threaten the survival of their pets.
TMZ reported that Sylvester Stallone wanted a new dog, a Rottweiler named Dwight to protect their family. According to the report, his wife, Jennifer Flavin, did not want another dog. Flavin filed for divorce after a huge argument over the dog.
Sly has denied the rumors, stating that the dog's care did cause conflict, but, "We did not end the relationship on such a trivial argument."
Stallone’s other dog, Butkus, the bull mastiff from “Rocky” films, may have also triggered marital problems after Stallone covered a large tattoo of his wife’s face with Butkus’s picture.
No matter how many millions of dollars the Stallone family may possess, pets need peace and stability.
Divorce? Don't forget your pets
In 1998 my dog and I fled from my California home after my husband’s prescription steroids created “roid rage” and he pointed a loaded shotgun at me. I put together a cadre to support our flight and a legal team to ensure my dog and I were safe.
Children and pets are vulnerable family members. They can’t be ping-ponged and thrive. They need stability and peace to be healthy.
In my own case, at the emergency hearing during which my husband demanded the return of his shotgun and the dog, in that order, the judge said that since Max was a 13-year-old dog he wouldn’t live that long and my husband should drop it and no, he would not be awarded the shotgun.
However, during my path to divorce, which was rocky due to my husband’s rage, I stood firm that my dog was staying with me even though he had been my husband’s dog for nine years before our marriage.
In “The Marry-Go-Round: or How to Save your Money, your Sanity & your Life!” I describe the seven stages of divorce: panic, denial, agony, rage, epiphany, negotiation and peace.
In negotiation we negotiate with ourselves, deciding what we will and won’t give away.
For many of us, we must keep our pets for their well-being and ours. I know that money was my husband’s addiction and as long as he kept some of my money, he would be unlikely to hunt for us while we were in hiding.
Rather than getting even which is always dangerous, I learned to self-soothe and now teach techniques to help you and your pets remain healthy.
To keep your pets safe during and after divorce, you should try to learn a few key skills so that every family member thrives.
Here are two examples of people prioritizing the well-being of their pets during divorce:
1. An American woman lived in Asia with two young children, two dogs and an urgent need to separate and return to the U.S after her husband’s risky affair.
I taught her how to move the two children, the two nursemaids, all her jewelry and most of her wardrobe to America in what her husband believed was a summer vacation.
So successful was the strategy and her ability to learn my skills, that the travel visas for everyone — even the ones required for the dogs — were done with her husband’s cooperation. Once they were safe in America, I taught her how to motivate her husband to a peaceful no-court divorce in which she retained full custody of her children and her dogs.
2. A client’s wife had charged $50,000 on her credit cards after the separation.
She had numerous unstable behaviors that would make her an unsuitable pet owner for their dogs. During mediation, she asked for only one of the dogs, one who she assessed would cause her husband the greatest concern because of the dog’s health needs.
I didn’t blink an eye. I advised him to emphasize the health care needs of the dog and describe in excruciating detail all the time required for the medication, veterinarian appointments and the co-payments. Within the week, the wife lost interest in keeping the dog.
The key points are these:
1. Learn to finesse for information no matter what your partner says. It is easy to discover what is the key value — love or money.
2. Through training and coaching, you can acquire the skills needed to persuade, inspire and negotiate.
3. Negotiate based on the truth of each of you instead of fighting and reacting. The spouse who didn’t have time to feed or walk a dog, who paid a few vet bills may not be bonded to the dog or cat. That spouse may feel relieved to let you keep the pets if you trade something,
4. Researching divorce case law provides past rulings in your county and state to use in mediation. Be sure you know the case law to know what you need to overcome.
5. Avoid court if possible so that you, not a judge, will decide your fate and your pet’s.