Alice and Bob
are disputing custody of a child or pet. The solution at which they arrive (or the one that is imposed on them by an authority figure, such as a judge, parent [if Alice and Bob are siblings], etc.) is to let the child or pet at issue choose which one he/she wants. Usually, the child or pet is placed in between Alice and Bob, and one of the characters (Bob) will try and talk it into coming with them, while the other will just stand there and wait. More often than not, the animal or child will have already made up its mind and go with Alice.
Sometimes, however, the big issue is not the people making someone make a choice, but the point that someone is being forced
to make a very unpleasant choice—especially in a romance situation. These situations most often do not settle the issue, and have a high likelihood of the one making the choice being hurt. Badly.
The child/pet may sometimes Take a Third Option
Contrast with Disney Dog Fight
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Anime & Manga
- In the final episode of FLCL,Commander Amarao attempted to get Naota to come with him and leave Haruko. It didn't work.
- In Axis Powers Hetalia, we have France and England arguing over who gets to be little America's big brother. France offers America the best cuisine in the world, and England sobs in a corner because his food just can't match up. America picks England
- Young Justice #2 contains one of the most bizarre examples of this trope, visually anyway, as the team has come into possession of a sentient motorcycle dubbed "The Super Cycle" and soon they come into contact with the original owner and invoke this trope which involves Robin and the gigantic New God Rip Roar, motioning, whistling and chanting for this enormous bike to choose one of them.
- In the movie version of Bewitched, one scene in the Show Within a Show has Darrin and his ex-wife arguing over custody of their dog. They decide to Let Him Choose. Samantha/Isabel does her bit, and the dog ignores both Darrin and the ex to go flying into Samantha/Isabel's arms instead. She comments, "Thank God you didn't have a Great Dane!" to much laughter.
- The first Air Bud movie uses this trope at the end, with Buddy's ownership being disputed between the man who lost Buddy when he literally fell off the back of the man's truck, and the boy who found Buddy not long after that. Since the original owner has been rather abusive in the past and the boy has constantly been a loving and caring sort of owner, this choice is a foregone conclusion.
- Seen in the film As Good As It Gets, with the twist that both participants want the dog to pick the original owner. The new-comer later admits that part of the reason the dog warmed to him so quickly (and maybe even why he picked him when given the choice) was that he had been carrying bacon in his pocket as a doggy treat.
- Played with in the movie A.I.: Artificial Intelligence with teddy choosing between David and Martin, but averts this by going to Monica who walks in.
- Monkey Trouble, The end has Dodger choose between Eva and his original owner.
- In Son of the Mask when the little boy has to choose between Loki and the mask, or his now normal dad.
- In one of Beverly Cleary's books with Henry and Ribsy, Ribsy's original owner shows up and wants his dog back. They decide to let Ribsy choose. He goes with Henry, of course.
- A major Tear Jerker in one of Jack London's Alaska stories.
- Perfect the Pig ends with the winged pig choosing between the woman who took him in and was kind to him, or the con artist who abused him.
Live Action TV
- Happened in an episode of CSI, where a feuding divorcing couple both wanted to keep the golden retriever. They did the classic "let the dog choose" thing, but the wife cheated by smearing bacon grease under her fingernails. Upon discovery of the cheat, murder, mayhem, and duplicate dogs became involved...
- Parodied on Scrubs, where J.D. and Turk do this with Rowdy, a stuffed lab. Or rather, they stage the scene and wait for someone to walk in so they can act it out (it's a stuffed dog after all).
- Attempted with a million-dollar cat on Designing Women; the cat Took a Third Option.
- In a Salute Your Shorts episode, there was a dispute between two campers as to who owned a champion jumping frog: the person who found it, or the person who trained it. The official rules on the situation are to draw a circle, put the animal inside it, and have it jump to whoever it wanted to claim it. The frog Takes a Third Option and jumps to an entirely unrelated person, so the Judgment of Solomon is eventually employed instead.
- Sam & Cat: Happened with Dice's dog when its previous owner, a snooty rich girl, came to reclaim him so the dog could compete with her in a fancy dance competition. Dice is unwilling to give him up, so he comes up with the idea to put the dog in the middle of the room, call to him, and see who he goes to. The dog runs to Dice before they can even start calling him.
- At the end of Bertolt Brecht's play The Caucasian Chalk Circle there is a contest for a child between his birth mother, a noblewoman who abandoned him during the siege of her castle, and the woman who rescued and raised him. It's more of a tug of war than letting the child choose, but the judge decides based on what the child and the adoptive mother do: the adoptive mother won't tug the child too hard for fear it will hurt him and because she is in distress, whereas the noblewoman just yanks him around, so the adoptive mother gets him in the end even though by the strictest rules of the contest she didn't win.
- Subverted in Fans!, in which Rikk's Evil Counterpart Keith Feddyg, after guilting Alisin, who had abused him, into becoming his sex slave, offers her the chance to choose. She chooses Keith, but Rikk beats him up and leads Alisin home by the hand.
- Parodied in Amazing Superpowers. The setup looks like the man and woman are letting a pet choose, but it's actually a child custody battle.