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What role do pets play in a divorce?

Imagine your typical family: a married couple with a child. The spouses get along just fine, and they love their child. For years and years, there are no issues with the couple's marriage. But then one day, the little fights and disagreements start to pile up. Soon, the two spouses are considering what their life would be like away from the other. Once that thought takes hold, the two spouses decide it is time to divorce.

Now, child custody can sometimes be an issue, but since we're talking about a child -- a real human being -- the situation is a bit more fluid than if we were talking about a desk or a chair. Pieces of property or assets may be contested, but there often aren't any agreements to divvy up the time each spouse gets to spend with each asset. Child custody agreements are far more layered and complex, and for good reason. 

But now consider this: let's say that same family didn't have a kid, and instead, they had a dog. How would that dog be treated during the divorce?

Sadly, it would be treated like a piece of property, since that is what the law considers pets. Only one of the spouses is likely to come away with the pet, and that can be just as heartbreaking to that spouse as it would be for the family that has a kid instead of a dog. To some families, their pet is their child.

There is some good news, though, Courts are starting to be more reasonable in their response to pets in divorce. Pet custody arrangements are even possible, if the spouses are willing to work together and reach an acceptable agreement.

Source: Michigan State University, "Custody of Pets in Divorce," Tabby McLain, Accessed July 30, 2015

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