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Animal Instincts: New York now requires courts to consider the best interests of pets in divorces

New York recently enacted a law changing the way pets are treated in divorces. Instead of treating pets the same as a table or bed, the law requires judges in divorce proceedings to consider the animals’ best interests when deciding which spouse gets custody. For example, the court might consider which spouse most often fed the animal, took it for veterinary care, or spent the most time with it. Illinois, California, and Alaska have similar laws.

In Minnesota, pets are still treated the same as other forms of property, and who gets "custody" of that pet is part of the property division in a divorce. The first thing the court will do is determine if the pet is "non-marital" property (for example, did one of the spouses own it before they got married). If so, that person gets the pet.

If the pet is "marital" property, the court needs to determine who should get the pet. In such case, the court may use factors similar to those considered in New Your to determine who is the "owner" and should be awarded the pet.

To discuss custody of pets or any other family law matter, call Kruse Family Law, PLLC at 612.231.98965 or email

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