Our pets can be an important part of our families. The moment families bring a furry, lovable little dog or cat home, they become an integral part of the household and the heart.

That is why, when couples pursue a divorce, many of them wonder: who will keep the family pet?

Pets are property under Michigan law

The answer to that question is not as straightforward as many spouses would like to believe.

Under Michigan law, pets are considered property. Therefore, they are subject to the rules and conditions of equitable distribution, just like any other marital property that spouses owned during their marriage.

Many pet owners would prefer to make a custody arrangement for their pets, but there is no legal pet custody agreement in Michigan. The idea has been proposed before in the state legislature, and both Alaska and Illinois established pet custody laws in recent years, but it did not pass here.

This can be a very difficult reality for pet owners, who often do not consider their pets to be property at all, but family.

How do courts decide who keeps the pet?

Courts may consider pets to be property under state law, but Michigan family courts will still consider a few critical factors when determining which spouse keeps the pet. These factors generally include:

  • Who spends the most time with the pet?
  • Who provides the most pet care?
  • Who brings the pet to the veterinarian?
  • Who provides financial care for the pet?

Michigan law does not specifically recognize pet custody, but that does not mean that spouses cannot create their own agreement. Family courts only intervene and determine who keeps the pet if spouses cannot agree.

So, if spouses can create a realistic agreement to share time with the pet on their own, then they can follow their own arrangement.