Almost 80 million households in the United States owned at least one pet in 2015-2016.

If your household is one of these, you know that pets are often considered family members. So it’s no surprise that in a divorce, the issue of who gets the pets can be a contentious one.

While many people may fondly think of their pet as “another child,” there are no pet custody or visitation laws in Minnesota. Pets are considered personal property, just like a piece of furniture. As a result, pets are legally subject to division in a divorce. Only one person is awarded the pet and the other person is entitled to the value of an equitable share of the pet. Unless a pet is a highly prized show animal, this is usually a negligible amount. The real issue for people is the strong emotional bond with the pet.

As with other issues in a divorce, if you and your spouse can come to an agreement, there are few limits to what you can achieve. You can establish a “visitation” arrangement for the pet. You can agree to split costs for veterinary care and general maintenance and plan for what happens if one party moves far away.

If you can’t reach an agreement, you might need to reach out to your DIYVorce team. The court considers many facts when deciding which spouse should have the pet. First, who has traditionally been the most responsible for the pet’s care? If one of you has been overwhelmingly more responsible for providing the pet with veterinary care, feeding, grooming, and other necessary actions, then that person is much more likely to be awarded the pet by a court. Courts also consider the impact on the children, if there are any. If the children have a strong bond with the pet, the custodial parent may be more likely to keep the pet. In your DIYVorce, pet custody might not be an issue. But if it is, we can help.


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