What Happens to the Family Pet During a Divorce in Minnesota?

The fate of the family pet is not always the first thing people think about when a divorce is on the horizon. Yet your beloved dog or cat has to go with one of you.

Here’s what you need to know about pets and divorce in Minnesota. First, you might see your dog as your “furry child,” but the courts generally don’t.

That means the courts are not, in general, going to rule on things like visitation and “pet support,” (which doesn’t exist). Pets are instead considered to be part of the marital property.

You also shouldn’t expect the courts to order your spouse to pay a share of the vet bills if you get Fluffy or Fido. If you get the “property” you usually get the costs of maintaining that property, too.

That’s not to say that judges don’t recognize that there are some special considerations to think about when it comes to pets. Here are some of the factors the judge might consider:

  • When did the pet arrive? If your spouse owned the dog or cat before you were married it might just be classified as your spouse’s personal property, rather than as marital property.
  • Who takes care of the pet? The spouse who takes primary responsibility for feeding, exercising, and/or cleaning up after the pet may often has a stronger case for keeping it.
  • How would the loss of the pet impact the children? The pet may well stay with the parent with primary physical custody to avoid causing any more distress to the kids.

Sometimes divorce mediation services can be a better choice when dealing with pets, especially if you and your spouse both view that pet as a member of your family and not as a piece of property. A mediator may be able to help you work out issues like “pet visitation” that a judge will not address.

At BGS we do offer qualified family law mediation. If you’re facing this or any other sticky divorce problem in Minnesota that might benefit from a settlement that is worked out outside of the court system, then call us for a consultation today.

About Elizabeth A. Schading

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