When dividing assets at the end of a marriage, it is often necessary to valuate some of the belongings. However, there are often possessions that have mere sentimental value to one or the other spouse, and those assets may be used as pawns or weapons during the divorce. Too often in Michigan, pets are included in these scenarios. In some states, however, more couples are asking courts to consider their pets more like children than possessions.

One state recently enacted the first laws in the country for pet custody in divorce settlements. No longer considered property by law, the best interests of pets are now protected when assets are divided. Several lawmakers inspired by this law have taken steps to include such legislation in their own states.

Animal advocates say the laws are intended to reduce disputes in divorces, especially when an emotional attachment to an animal is used as leverage or retribution against a spouse. These situations often arise when a couple has no children and have focused their attention on the pets. By viewing pets as living creatures instead of furniture, courts will be forced to consider which spouse will be better suited to care for the animal.  

Across the country, family law courts have seen a 27 percent increase in couples asking for pet custody decisions over the past five years. Even though Michigan has not enacted laws regarding pets in divorce settlements, to many people, this decision is important. Having an attorney who understands those crucial factors may increase the likelihood of a positive resolution to one’s pet custody dispute.

Source: The New York Times, “When Couples Divorce, Who Gets to Keep the Dog? (Or Cat.)“, Christopher Mele, March 23, 2017