What happens with pets in a divorce?

No matter what you call them – “furry children” or “four legged children” – pets are considered family.  Whether pets teach children responsibility or they provide the family with loyal friendship, we cannot deny the valuable impact of pets.

Divorce impacts who is going to have the pets which is a highly emotional issue for sure.  Minnesota law treats pets like property, for example, a vehicle, a bank account or the living room furniture.  But with pets and divorce ownership of the pets is key.  The spouse who owned the pets before the marriage is most likely going to claim ownership which can be shown through registration papers, receipts or pictures.

Pets obtained during the marriage are equally owned by both spouses.  The same proof of ownership may be helpful, but a court is likely not going to consider the documentation or information the same because pets obtained during the marriage are an asset of the marriage.  A spouse wanting ownership of the pets may still want to try providing the following information to the judge which could include:

  • History of any actual or possible abuse to the pets
  • Veterinarian bills
  • Ownership, i.e. who signed the adoption or registration paperwork
  • Grooming and kenneling invoices

Some couples choose to create a custody agreement or visitation schedule for their pets.  This sort of arrangement can be fraught with problems, for example, who pays for veterinarian expenses but still may be an option a couple may want to consider.

Questions about pet custody agreements or visitation schedules should contact experienced family law attorney Jessica L. Sterle at (218) 722-2655 to schedule a consultation.