Many Minnesota residents consider their dogs to be members of their family. Dogs are often beloved pets that can live up to 14 years, or even longer. So, what happens if a pet owner spouse files for divorce? Who gets the dog?
In Minnesota, issues of dogs or other pets are a matter of property division. If a pair of spouses disagrees about who should continue to live with and care for their dog after divorce, it may be a matter the court will decide. In certain cases, a dog might be considered nonmarital property. For instance, if a spouse owned a dog before marriage or it was a gift to one spouse, the court will probably rule that he or she has separate ownership, and the dog is not subject to property division.
This state operates under equitable property guidelines in divorce
Like most states, Minnesota conducts property division proceedings in a divorce under equitable property guidelines. This means that, while a set of spouses will receive a fair portion of all marital property, it will not necessarily be a 50/50 split. A compelling issue that may influence the court’s decision regarding where a dog should live after divorce in a case where there are children is where the children’s primary place of residence will be. If the kids have a close bond with the family pet, the judge will likely determine it best for the pet to continue living in the same household as them.
Several states are resolving dog issues during custody proceedings
Some judges believe it is more appropriate to resolve dog-related issues in divorce as part of custody proceedings. If a spouse has concerns about a dog’s safety and health in conjunction with a divorce, he or she can discuss the issue with an experienced divorce attorney. This would be a particularly wise decision if there are concerns regarding possible pet abuse or neglect.