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Who keeps the pet in a Michigan divorce?

On Behalf of | Mar 1, 2024 | Divorce

A divorce can significantly impact several aspects of the lives of the couple and their family. In addition to dividing up valuable assets and determining child custody arrangements, courts will have to determine what happens to the couple’s pet. While both spouses may have an emotional bond with the pet and may consider the pet to be a member of the family, courts will treat the pet as property under Michigan divorce laws.

Is the pet considered marital property?

Under Michigan’s equitable distribution laws, courts will find a way to distribute all marital property fairly and equitably.

First, the court will have to determine whether the pet is in fact marital property. If one spouse owned the pet prior to the marriage or is the sole or primary owner listed on the pet’s paperwork/medical records, the court may find that the pet is separate property and allow that spouse to claim the pet in the divorce.

However, if both spouses are considered co-owners of the pet or the pet was acquired during the marriage, the pet will likely be considered marital property. The court may decide to allow the pet to stay with the spouse that was primarily responsible for the pet during the marriage. The court may also choose to give the pet to the spouse who it believes has the time and money to care for the pet post-divorce.

Shared custody agreements for pets

Even though courts do not treat pets the same as children, a shared custody agreement may be beneficial for divorcing spouses who both have a bond with the animal. For example, the former spouses may decide to share ownership of the pet by equally sharing all financial responsibilities relating to the pet and spending equal amounts of time with the pet. If the couple also has children, they may consider allowing the pet to stay wherever the children are on any given day, particularly if the children have also bonded with the pet.