Q: My wife and I are trying to settle our divorce and we are making good progress at resolving all of the issues out of court. As funny as it sounds, the only thing we are really arguing about is the dog. Our golden retriever has been a part of our family for several years and she means a lot to both of us. What will the court to do with this?

A: You would be surprised at how common this dispute has become, especially in families with children. The short answer is that a pet is considered personal property subject to division just like all of the other things a couple owns. Most judges will not enter into a "pet custody" trial. I strongly advise my clients, especially those with children, to attempt to resolve the issue of pets outside of court. It is possible to agree on an arrangement where the pet follows the children when they have parenting time if both parents are willing to help provide for the pet and have suitable homes. A pet can be a great source of comfort and security for a child when his or her parents are going through divorce.

If the parents do not agree, the court will, in most cases, award the pet to one or another of them, taking into consideration the parenting time schedule for the children, who has made the financial expenditures, and who has invested the most time and attention into caring for the animal during the marriage.

For more information about division of personal property in a Michigan divorce, click here.