Law Offices of Lisa Stern
Effective, Efficient Family Law Representation Since 1995
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Pets and divorce: who wins?

When most Michigan residents think of divorce, the first aspects to come that mind are likely estate divisions, child support and alimony guidelines. Yet what happens to pets owned by couples going through divorce? 

Deciding arrangements for children of divorce can have its own set of complications; one might assume that dealing with pets would be a much simpler process. And while pets are legally considered property instead of members of the family, many officials have introduced proposals regarding pet custody. Just as court systems largely focus on the best interest of children, lawmakers and advocacy groups have revisited the aspect of pets in cases of divorce by stressing that the legal system should act in the best interests of pets, as well.

Informal Decisions

Since Michigan courts have yet to reach a verdict for pets and divorce, some individuals have turned to informal decisions on the matter. The Detroit News highlights the growing relevance of pets and divorces, and considers the fact that Americans are delaying having children and instead turning to pets. As a result of the millions who divorce, pets are often caught in the crosshairs of such procedures. In heated divorces, individuals often use pets against one another, and while there are rare occurrences of court involvement regarding pets, couples must usually face these complex decisions themselves.

Changing Laws 

The issue of pets in divorces has become so prevalent that many court officials have considered adjusting the divorce law to accommodate four-legged members of the family. In fact, The New York Times recently pointed out that a substantial number of courts in the past decade have awarded shared custody, visitation and even alimony payments to pet owners. The Times also notes the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers' report of a 27 percent increase in pet-custody cases in the last five years. Regardless of how those going through divorce decide to handle pets, recent laws may foretell a system that deals with pets by considering them as more than mere inanimate property.    

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