A pet is often considered part of the family. Millions of American families adopt dogs and cats as well as more exotic choices, such as pot-bellied pigs or snakes. And in a divorce, the issue of who gets the pet can be contentious, with pet owners fighting just as much over who gets the pet as who gets the children. We hope your DIYvorce process has helped you resolve your pet ownership question, but if it hasn’t, we can turn to the law for some advice. In Minnesota, as in many other states, pets and other animals are considered property. Accordingly, the issue of who keeps the pet is governed by the same rules as the distribution of other property.

Generally, property acquired before the marriage is non-marital property. It’s not divided in a divorce. If you had the pet before the marriage, you keep it. However, property acquired during the marriage is marital property and is subject to division. If the pet was acquired during the marriage, it becomes more complicated. Unlike other marital assets, it is not possible to be awarded half a pet. Kind of defeats the purpose. Moreover, the courts won’t create a “shared custody” plan for a pet unless the co-owners have already agreed to one, because the pet is not a child.

Without an agreement of who should get the pet, in a trial the parties would each present evidence on which of them is more appropriate to get the pet. And while the pet is not a child, the evidence the parties use to demonstrate they should receive the dog is often similar to that seen in a custody dispute. For example, if one spouse can demonstrate that he or she was the “primary caretaker” for the pet and was usually the one responsible for caring for it (exercising, grooming, feeding, etc.), this is a strong argument for that spouse to be awarded the pet. If the parties also have children, the children’s bond with the pet can also be examined when deciding who gets it. If the children are strongly bonded to the pet, the parent who is awarded the majority of time with the children is also likely to be awarded the pet.

If you can’t figure out who gets the pet(s), contact your DIYvorce representative for help.

Deciding to get a divorce is hard.

And then it seems to just get harder. But it doesn’t have to be that way anymore.

DIYvorce was created by Minnesota divorce attorneys who know that people need a path to their divorce that doesn’t require thousands of dollars and months of fighting. But they also need to know their divorce is done correctly, and that it resolves the couple’s disagreements.

DIYvorce is an easy-to-use path for for couples who are ending their marriage:

You work through a secure online interview to gather information.

You get helpful information about issues to consider as you work out how to legally part.

You have the opportunity to consult with legal professionals along the way. Your questions will be answered and you can be confident about your final divorce and the documents.