Children and money – those are always the major elements of contention when it comes to working out a divorce settlement. But what about the family pet? Who gets custody of your pet when your marriage ends? What’s fair? And who decides?
Your Pet: Family or Property?
Most pet owners claim their beloved pet as a member of the family. This cherished creature sleeps in their bed and goes on road trips and is a fixture in their daily life. With an existence that is already changing in every possible way, the presence of their pet is one constant both parties are very likely going to want to keep – which means a strong fight for pet custody.
Unfortunately, the way Michigan law sees pets is not as warm-blooded entities who share your home and life. Legally, pets are considered property, just like houses, vehicles, and belongings. Because Michigan is an equitable distribution state, assets and debts of a marriage are divided by the court in a way that is intended to be equitable to both parties. And that includes pets – they are considered a marital asset subject to distribution.
Showing You Should Get Pet Custody
Until the time comes that divorce courts recognize pets as something other than property, you must work within the constraints of the law. So, if you want to walk away from your divorce with pet custody, the best way you can do so is to show that the pet is separate, non-marital property. This can be argued by establishing that you were given the pet as a gift during the marriage or obtained the pet prior to the marriage.
There are other ways to plead your case:
- You spend the most time with the pet.
- You provide most of the care for the pet.
- You are most financially able to provide food and vet care for the pet.
- Children in the home of the person with primary custody are emotionally attached to the pet.
It’s important to remember, however, that dogs, cats, and other pets are not children. Busy divorce courts are not necessarily inclined to spend the time and expense to hear pet custody proceedings that are as complex as a child custody matter. Judges look favorably on divorcing couples who come to court with a pet custody plan in mind.
The Details of Pet Custody in Michigan Divorce
It’s possible to come to a shared custody arrangement for your family pet. You could exchange your dog at the same time you exchange your children, shifting your pet between two homes. This would also include a shared responsibility for the expenses of the pet. Your divorce settlement will need to be carefully fleshed out to identify both parties’ responsibilities.
When you have a special connection to your pet, the last thing you want to do during such an emotionally fraught time as divorce is to give up that creature. An experienced Michigan divorce lawyer will help you figure out the most fair and amicable pet custody in your divorce. Schedule a consultation with Femminineo Attorneys, PLLC in Macomb to discuss your case.