A pet is considered a member of the family to many people. Although Minnesota family law is not completely silent when it comes to a beloved pet, the Court will generally not consider the emotional value your pet may have to you. Below are three areas of Minnesota family law where your pet may be considered.
Minnesota law now allows for the inclusion of pets in Orders for Protection. Specifically, the Court has the power to “direct the care, possession, or control of a pet or companion animal owned, possessed, or kept by the petitioner or respondent or a child of the petitioner or respondent” and/or “direct the respondent to refrain from physically abusing or injuring any pet or companion animal […] as an indirect means of intentionally threatening the safety of such person.” Minn. Stat. § 518B.01.
Despite the emotional attachment you may have to your pet, Minnesota Law considers pets under the property division aspect of a Minnesota Divorce. This means that your pet will typically be divided as part of your personal property or under a just and equitable standard.
In some cases, who the family pet is awarded to may have a more significant effect on the property division during a divorce proceeding. This is typically in a situation where the pet has more than sentimental value to the parties and actually carries a monetary value. For example: thoroughbred horses, a registered purebred dog, rare or exotic animal breeds, etc.
Child Custody/Parenting Time
There is no specific law that discusses a family pet in the context of child custody or parenting time arrangements. However, parents can agree that a pet will go with the child on his/her parenting time transitions. This is typically in the context of a child who has a strong emotional attachment to a pet or if the parties consider the pet to belong to the child.
This is also one way to help your child adjust to the parenting time schedule and to having two (2) homes. Particularly when one parent stays in the marital home, children of a divorce may have a hard time considering the second parent’s house a true second home. Allowing the child to take his/her pet with him/her when going to the second parent’s house can help the child feel at home.