Pets and Divorce in Minnesota

September 20, 2012 - by Eric Anderson

People very often see their pets as part of their family - almost on the level of children.  For many divorcing couples, their pets are their "children."  While the law has very specific provisions related to children involved in a divorce, what happens to pets in a divorce when people can't agree?  

Under Minnesota law, pets are considered property and the court will divide (not literally) the pets as the court would divide property.  Therefore, it's important to be aware of the rules governing property division in a divorce.  If the pet is one spouse's "non-marital property," then that spouse will be awarded the pet.  The pet would be considered non-marital if the spouse purchased the pet prior to the marriage, the pet was a gift given specifically to one spouse, or the pet was purchased with non-marital funds.

However, if the pet isn't non-marital property, things get a bit tricky.  If the spouses absolutely can't come to an agreement, the court will eventually have to make the decision.  Ironically, the court will usually consider similar factors that it considers when deciding child custody cases.  Are there any minor children of the marriage?  The court may want to keep the pet with the children if the children are attached to the pet.  Who was the pet's primary caretaker?  Which spouse will provide a better living situation for the pet going forward?

Like most issues in family law, it is generally better if the parties can work out an agreement.  One option is to have one spouse monetarily compensate the other spouse for the pet.  Another common option is to "share custody" of the pet and set up a visitation schedule, much like what is done with children.  Hopefully, the parties will be able to come to a rational agreement that is in the best interests of everyone involved - the children, the spouses, and the pet.  

Disclaimer: No case or client-specific information shall be discussed on this website. The content provided is informational only and should not be construed as legal advice. If you have questions about divorce or custody in Minnesota , please seek the advice of an attorney.