Going through a Michigan divorce is difficult and complicated, even when you have not been married for a very long time and you do not own a significant amount of property with your spouse. Naturally, divorces become much more complex when the spouses have minor children from the marriage or when they share beloved pets. In a number of states, courts handle pets from a marriage by looking to state pet custody statutes or laws that govern how divorcing spouses will share custody of a dog or a cat, or another pet. Michigan is not yet one of the states that has any laws on the books concerning pet custody. Instead, Michigan courts will rely on Michigan divorce law to determine who gets the pets in a divorce.
What does Michigan law say about pets in a divorce? In short, pets are considered property in a divorce case, which means a court will use property division requirements when deciding who will get the pet in a divorce.
Equitable Distribution of Marital Property, Including Pets
Under Michigan law, all property owned by the spouses must be accurately classified. Property, which includes debts and assets from the marriage, will be classified either as separate property (non-marital property) or marital property. Separate property will not be divided in a divorce, while marital property will be divided based on the theory of equitable distribution. With equitable distribution, a court does not divide marital property equally between the spouses but rather divides it in a way that is fair to both spouses based on their circumstances and the facts of the marriage.
Separate property typically includes any assets (or debts) acquired prior to the date of the marriage, as well as any assets (or debts) acquired after the date of the marriage through an inheritance, through a gift, or with separate property. As such, the court will need to determine if a pet should be classified as separate or marital property. If one of the parties adopted or purchased the pet before the marriage, it might be separate property owned by that spouse, and the issue of “who gets the pet” might not actually be an issue at all. The same may be true if one of the spouses inherited the pet or was gifted the pet during the marriage. In addition, if the spouses have a premarital agreement that is enforceable and says that one of the parties will get the pet in a divorce, then the court will uphold the premarital agreement.
When a pet is classified as marital property, the court will “divide” the pet along with other property from the marriage based on a variety of factors.
Negotiate a Marital Settlement Agreement
If you are very concerned about who will get the pet in your divorce, it may be possible to negotiate a marital settlement agreement with your ex in which you give up other assets in order to keep the pet after your divorce. Your Michigan divorce lawyer can discuss this option with you. Contact the Law Offices of Michael A. Robbins for more information.
Contact a Michigan Divorce Attorney
If you have questions or concerns about your pet and your Michigan divorce, one of our Michigan divorce attorneys can assist you.