If you’re like a lot of people, you consider your dog or cat (or any other pet) more like a family member or child than a simple pet.
Unfortunately, the law in Michigan doesn’t quite see it that way. If you’re considering a divorce, here’s what you should know about what will happen to your pets:
Pets are becoming increasingly important in divorce
Americans love their animals, so it’s probably no surprise that many couples go to war over custody of the pets — even when there are no children involved in the marriage. Dogs account for 88 percent of animal-related divorce disputes. Cats end up the subject of litigation only about six percent of the time, as do all other animals — from horses to snakes and birds.
Michigan considers all animals property
While it may distress you to learn this, the dog — or any other pet you may have — is considered merely property under the law. Several states have changed their laws in ways that now allow judges to treat household pets just like they would children. Divorcing couples can often get joint custody and visitation schedules.
In Michigan, the laws have yet to change, so the family pet is treated the same as the silverware. That means the court won’t consider what’s best for the animal during a divorce.
You can take steps to protect your pet
If you want to protect your pet in the event of a divorce, you can do a number of different things, including:
- Consider a prenuptial agreement that addresses your pets and what will happen if you divorce.
- Keep good records. Proof that you purchased the pet from the breeder, handled the vet visits and generally are the primary owner can help sway the court that the pet should belong to you.
- If you’re already divorcing, try to work out a private agreement with your spouse. Include visitation schedules and determine who will pay for expenses, including vet care.
If you’re going through a divorce, it may be increasingly difficult to keep perspective on what’s important. As challenges arise, a divorce attorney can help you keep your cool and work through the issues with your spouse in a way that will benefit you and your pet.