What happens with pets in a divorce?

Our dogs and cats are our four-legged children.  They are our little humans.  Our pets are spoiled over and over again.  For many pet owners, it is hard to imagine Minnesota law not treating pets like people.  State law treats pets  differently than in the real world.  Actually, pets are considered property the same as a truck, bank account or kayak in a divorce.

Judges really do not want to have to decide who should get custody of pets.  They hope the couple can make that decision.  One way to creatively decide “custody” of the couple’s pets is to create parenting plan specifying who has the pets during the month.  Some couples have a pet parenting plan that matches their parenting time schedule for their children.  This way the children and the pets stay together.

While a pet parenting plan can make sense, it is very important to keep in mind all the details that come with pet ownership.  The couple needs to specifically lay out how they are going to address and pay for vet bills, licensing, food and grooming costs.  What happens if a pet develops a life threatening illness?  Who decides to treat the illness or put the pet down?  Pet insurance coverage and cost may be an issue to consider.  These real world issues come into play when weighing if a pet parenting plan is feasible.

Another option is adopting a new pet.  There are wonderful animal shelters who have pets looking for a new forever home.

Jessica Sterle

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