If a Minnesota household includes a beloved pet, such as a dog or cat, those who live there no doubt consider it a member of the family. In fact, some years back, most participants in a survey said they wouldn’t even trade their pets for $1 million. Should spouses consider what might become of their pet if they decide to divorce?
In most states, including this one, the family court system considers pets “personal property” in a divorce. Marital assets are divided in an equitable (fair, though not necessarily equal) split in a divorce. The court can’t divide a pet in two, so who gets to keep it if they can’t agree? That is a matter for the judge to decide, unless the spouses signed a petnup before their marriage. This is a colloquial term referring to the incorporation of terms of agreement regarding a pet into a prenuptial agreement.
Agree ahead of time who gets the pet in a divorce
Just as spouses can list a particular asset under separate ownership to keep them from being included as marital property in case of a divorce, they can also agree regarding the future care of a pet. Most people consider such issues a matter of “custody,” although most states still consider it a matter of “property.” Either way, a couple can state who will take care of the pet, as well as who would provide for its financial needs, if they ever decide to divorce.
Some states are leaning toward treating pets as “custody” issues with judges taking an animal’s “best interests” under consideration when determining where it will live after a couple finalizes a divorce. Many people agree to transport a pet between both households at various intervals throughout the year, similar to what parents do in a shared custody arrangement. If a concerned pet owner is unsure about Minnesota laws that might be relevant to a pet in a divorce, a consultation with a family law attorney would be helpful.