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Michigan Family Law Blog

Monday, December 31, 2018

Duking It Out Over Duke

Who gets the dog-- or other pets--in a divorce?

If you’re considering getting divorced in Michigan, you can expect to work through many issues as you separate one household into two separate ones-- though how many will be determined based on your particular circumstances.

One issue all couples have to deal with is property division which, as its name implies, divvies up the couple’s assets. Like most states, Michigan is an equitable distribution state rather than a community property state. So, the couple’s assets will be combined for consideration and then divided as equitably as possible between them—which does not necessarily mean equally.

Another consideration for all couples is the issue of spousal support, also known as alimony. While it is not awarded in all cases, alimony may be necessary or appropriate to level the field financially and allow one spouse to maintain a standard of living similar to that enjoyed during marriage while they adjust to a life they hadn’t anticipated. It’s often appropriate when one spouse stays home with children and the other pursues higher education and/or a career. But there are many factors a court considers when couples aren’t in agreement about spousal support.

For couples with minor children, divorce is more complicated. Plans for child custody and visitation as well as child-support must be determined. If the parties cannot agree, the judge will decide these important arrangements, applying a standard of what’s in the best interest of the child.

But who gets custody of the beloved family pets?

Many divorcing pet lovers are surprised to learn that Duke and Fluffy are considered to be marital assets subject to distribution-- just like the couch and snowblower. Like virtually every other state, Michigan doesn’t recognize the concept of pet custody.

But three states– – Alaska, California, and neighboring Illinois – – are bucking that policy and have recently passed laws empowering judges “to consider the well-being of the animal... and to assign a joint custody schedule that’s in the critter’s best interest”. In fact, in some cases the pets join the children in shuffling back-and-forth between the parents’ homes after the divorce. It remains to be seen if this “pet custody” trend will spread to additional states.

If you are considering getting divorced or have been served with divorce papers, Cameron C. Goulding Family Law and Mediation, P.L.C. can help you. Contact us today to request a consultation.

From our office in Rochester, we serve families throughout Oakland, Macomb, Genesee, Livingston, Lapeer and Wayne counties in all matters of family law.

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