Michigan Divorce Law Regarding Pets Might Surprise And Baffle

Michigan Divorce Law Regarding Pets Might Surprise and Baffle

It’s no secret that divorce settlements can be complex, contentious, and drawn out.  Consideration of finances, property, and children understandably takes center stage.  As a result, pets often are a forgotten element in the process, lovable as they might be.  Sadly, these oversights can lead to regret and hurt feelings once the dust has settled.  

The good news?  Such lapses in protocol are easily avoided.  Often, spouses are merely unfamiliar with the details concerning this topic.  Fortunately, a little bit of foreknowledge can go a long way toward keeping the peace and preventing problems after the fact.  So, who gets Rover and Muffy?  Well, the answer isn’t cut-and-dried, but with a little effort, heartbreak can be avoided.

The most important factor to keep in mind is this:  Custody terms do not apply.  By and large, pets are treated in the same manner as material property.  Hence, this is largely an objective issue in the eyes of the law, for better or for worse.  

That said, there are several details that could factor into the court’s determination regarding the fate of the four-, six-, or eight-legged.  

The Skinny

Who bought the pet?  Who spends more time with it?  Who feeds it? Is the animal a cherished part of the children’s lives?  Each of these questions — especially the interests of the children — could come into play.  One larger component might supersede all of this, though — the needs of the animal.  Which partner can best care for it financially and otherwise?  Is there a history of pet abuse by either?  Sometimes the answer is self-evident.  The practical solution is often the best solution. 

Avoiding a Hassle

Spouses would do well to consider one of several alternatives in order to prevent loss of ownership.  Joint custody and visitation rights are two such possibilities.  However, being that the court has no legal right to enforce such arrangements, well-intended as they are, it is incumbent upon the divorcing couple to adhere to these mutual understandings.

What It All Means

Many people find the idea of considering pets as property to be unsettling, misguided, or even reprehensible.  After all, these aren’t cars or appliances we’re talking about.  Folks feel their animals are a part of their family.  Childless couples may even consider their pets to be comparable to kids.  However, the law being what it is, a divorcing pair is best served by considering the needs of all involved.  

The clear best-case scenario is mutual agreement on post-divorce ownership.  Compromise might be frustrating, but it exists for good reason.  At the end of the day, the needs of the children and the animal itself must take precedence.  Beyond this, taking a chance in court with regard to a very murky topic might well be a toss of the dice, and this benefits no one.

If you’d like to learn more about Michigan divorce law concerning pets, simply contact the legal team at Gucciardo Law Firm by calling 248-723-5190 or e-mailing  info@gucciardofamilylaw.com.  

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We focus exclusively on family law matters so we are always available to answer your questions and help.

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