We are talking about a custody dispute. The case does not come from Minnesota, but it is important to remember that our courts will look to other states' opinions for guidance when our own statutes and case law have not addressed the issue before. We would never say for sure that a Minnesota judge would rely on this case, but it is always a possibility.
At any rate, the divorcing couple could not agree on custody of their dog. The wife wanted a shared visitation arrangement; the husband preferred that one of them have full (legal and physical) custody. As we said in our last post, the court applied a kind of "best interest of the pet" standard in her decision.
The judge learned that the husband, a veterinarian, had taken the dog to work with him. The wife had been the primary caregiver on a daily basis, and the dog had accompanied her on long walks. From the evidence presented, the judge concluded that the husband treated the dog "like a dog" and had a "balanced attitude toward the animal." The wife treated the dog "more like a child" -- she apparently doted on the animal a little too much for the judge's taste, because the husband ended up with full custody.
The judge had warned the couple that the state's family courts would not enforce a visitation or shared custody arrangement, "even if the parties agreed to it." The question for pet owners, then, is simple: Why bother to ask the court at all?
A good question -- and one that we will address in our next post.
Source: Seven Days, "Pet Custody Can Dog Vermont Divorces," Ken Picard, June 25, 2014