Spouses don’t always have to have kids of their own to worry about custodial issues in a Michigan divorce. While cats are the most popular house pet in America, dogs are the most common pet for active families. In fact, they’re so popular that the number of dogs in American households has exploded from 68 million in the year 2000 to 89.7 million in 2017. Pets are cheaper, less work, and often more fulfilling for couples who simply have minimal or no interest in building or extending a family. It’s no wonder why having a beloved pet pooch can play a huge part in postponing divorce plans. Pets are serious subjects of contention in many divorces, and courts take their final living arrangements seriously. But what does that mean for your case?
Does Pet Custody Really Exist?
If you’re willing to fight for your pet in court, there’s little doubt you consider them a pivotal part of your family. Yet, in Michigan, as well as most other states, pets haven’t been considered family members throughout the legal system. They’ve been considered personal property. Depending on the jurisdiction, pets can be divided amongst the spouses or be considered in an equitable distribution situation. However, since pets are so essential to the health and welfare of so many people nowadays, the court rulings are starting to change.
For around 15 years, various courts around the country have permitted legal shared custody arrangements, visitation schedules, and even alimony payments for pampered pets. Of course, the tug-of-war isn’t just limited to the canine or feline variety. All types of pets from exotic to commonplace (such as iguanas, turtles, pythons, and parrots) can be a part of an aggressive custodial battle. Just be aware that once it begins, the odds may not be legally in your favor. But if you are proven as the more deserving pet parent, your Michigan divorce attorney can help tip the scale in your direction.
Who Will Win Pet Custody in your Michigan Divorce?
Alaska was the first state to enact pet-custody legislation, and that just occurred in 2016. Michigan still legally sees pets as property, but human beings recognize the difference. As such, there is no cut and dry answer to who will receive the beloved family pet. Property ownership that is not agreed upon by both spouses in front of your Michigan divorce lawyer will be decided by a judge. Here are a few considerations will be essential to your claim:
- When was the pet purchased–before or after the marriage?
- Which spouse spends the most time with said pet?
- Who can take better care of the pet’s daily needs?
- Who is more financially responsible and able to provide for the pet without assistance?
- Are any children in the home currently attached to the pet?
When a couple can figure out and decide the best plan of attack on their own, those decisions are always taken seriously in the case of pet possession/custody. But if working with your ex for the best possible care is out of the question, your Michigan divorce lawyer can help get the ball rolling.