When you get a divorce in Birmingham and you have deep disagreements over which one of you should get the family’s dog or cat, you might expect the Oakland County court to have in place a method for settling your dispute. But the reality is that Michigan is just one of the many states that have not incorporated pet custody guidelines in family law.

In Michigan, courts consider pets to be property rather than members of an extended family. So the decision on who will get the dog or cat is part of the court’s division of marital property rather than something akin to child custody.

Because Michigan is an equitable distribution state, and not a community property state, the court divides assets and debts so that the arrangement is fair and equitable for both people.

Other states are taking a different approach to pet custody disputes. In Illinois, for instance, a law that went into effect at the beginning of the year gives judges discretion to consider the well-being of the pet when deciding who will get sole or joint responsibility and “ownership” (that’s the word used in the law) of the pet.

An Illinois state senator said the new law “sort of starts treating your animal more like children” than property.

There are many serious issues to be settled in divorces, including custody of children, division of marital property such as the house, vehicles, stocks, etc., as well as spousal support (alimony), child support, pet custody and much more. Discuss your legal options with a Birmingham attorney who knows how to protect you and your family at every step of the divorce process.