Divorces are usually marked by battles over property and child custody issues. Deciding who gets to keep the family pet can add a whole new topic for couples to fight over. Who gets to keep the dog, cat or lizard is a topic that comes up frequently in divorce proceeding, and, like everything else, can be a difficult and emotional issue to deal with.
In Florida, as in most other states, pets are considered property – which means they are subject to ownership, not custody. That means that “joint custody” is not an option in Florida. Legally property can only be awarded to one party in the divorce. A pet acquired during the marriage is considered joint marital property, even if it was given as a gift from one spouse to the other.
Couples have much more flexibility in deciding what will happen to the pet if they come to an agreement outside of court. If the divorcing couple cannot agree between themselves who should keep the pet, the judge must award it as property. Judges will consider who spent the most time with the pet, who took the most care of it and who is more bonded with the animal when making a decision.
In a divorce where a pet is involved, the couple should make every effort to find a common ground before going through the agony and expense of a court battle over a pet. While the pet may be oblivious to the battle being waged, the emotional pain is felt deeply by the couple and especially their children.
If you are considering divorce, please contact our firm for expert, compassionate legal counsel.
Find out more about this topic at Pets are property in divorce.