People often call pets their “fur babies,” which makes it easy to understand that these animals are members of the family. Many people don’t automatically think about what is going to happen with pets when a marriage dissolves. This can actually be a contentious area of the divorce.
Many factors go into where a pet will live during the split and after a divorce. Unfortunately, pets are considered personal property in Minnesota. This makes it even more difficult to determine who is going to get to keep them. For many, working out something prior to going to court can be beneficial.
Factors the court considers
There are a few factors that the court will consider if it has to determine where the pets should go. One of the primary concerns is who was the primary caregiver for the animal. This is the person who has trained the pet, taken it to veterinary appointments and handled other similar tasks. If both adults have done this, the court will look at who is able to care for the animal better.
In some cases, the value of the animal is considered and used during the property division process. This might mean that the person who keeps the pet may have to give up another comparable asset or take on some of the marital debt to balance the property division.
Arrangements for the pet
While you might automatically think that one person has to be the only one who has the pet, this may not be the case. It is often possible to set up a plan where the pet is shared between both homes.
This can be the best option for parents who have children who love the pet. One idea is to have the pet follow the same schedule as the children. The kids might feel more secure and adjust to the changes better knowing that they have their beloved cat, dog, or other animal with them regardless of which home they are currently in.
If you do decide to share the pets, make sure that you plan for expenses. There should be a clear division for expenses. Will there be a 50/50 split for veterinary bills and preventative expenses like immunizations? Will each person be responsible for the food at their own home? What is considered a necessary expense?
Outlining the entire agreement regarding the pet should happen in writing. This takes any guesswork out of what should occur in the future.