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Hard to apply equitable division to the family pet

Most Minnesotans who decide to go through with a divorce have some idea of what the divorce process entails. Most people understand that at some point there will be asset or property division. Initially, property is separated into marital and separate property. The separate party remains the property of each individual spouse owner, while the marital property may be subject to an equitable division.

In Minnesota, equitable division up on divorce does not necessarily mean equal, but the property and assets will be divided in a way that seems fair or "equitable" between the divorcing parties. This can be decided via mediation, settlement negotiation or a judge may simply order the settlement arrangement.

When couples prepare for property division, house, cars and money may come to mind. However, many spouses probably do not think that of the family pet as property. Upon divorce, couples may be able to agree who gets custody of any pets or animals, but disputes may often arise over this issue. Pets for many individuals hold extreme sentimental value and are a big part of the family.

If there is a dispute over a pet, a judge can look at a number of factors to determine how to handle the situation. Much like with children, a shared custody arrangement or visitation is not always feasible. A judge may consider the welfare of the pet or animal, which party has a stronger emotional connection and which party is the primary caregiver of the pet. A judge may also look at the pet's daily routine and see which spouse can best accommodate that routine.

Divorce can be emotional to begin with but losing ownership of a family pet can make the process even more difficult. Spouses going through a divorce may want to speak with a family law attorney to learn how they can protect their interests during property division, especially when it comes to sentimental and meaningful possessions.

Source: Burlington Free Press, "After divorce, court won't allow joint dog custody," Lisa Rathke, April 25, 2014

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