Who Keeps Pets in a Divorce?

Many families who have pets consider them a part of the family. We form special connections to our pets. We often give them the same love and energy we give the rest of our family. Our pets grow and develop with us and provide us with important companionship and love in return. So it’s no big surprise that couples experiencing divorce often worry about who takes the dog. This is especially true if both parties have a connection to the animal. Is there such a thing as animal custody in Florida? Are there animal visitation rights? These cases can get pretty dicey, so we’d like to go what happens to pets in a divorce today.

Are Pets Family in a Divorce?

You may disagree, but the State of Florida considers pets property. Pets are often considered marital property. This means that if you get a new pet during your marriage, that pet will be a part of the equitable division of assets with your divorce. Because they are considered property, there is no joint pet ownership. There are also no visitation rights like there are for children. Time-sharing does not exist for pets either. As property, they have one owner.

Which Party Keeps the Pet?

Considering how important your pet is, this may be a hard pill to swallow, but the court decides who keeps the animal. The first part of this consideration is determining if the pet is marital property. Yes, the law considers them property, but the circumstances can change the pet’s status. If you entered the marriage with the pet, they are considered personal property. Service animals are also considered personal property and are not subject to equitable distribution. Parental responsibilities are also considered. Dangerous pets typically won’t go to the spouse with young children.

Otherwise, just like with cars, homes, or other assets, pets are marital property if purchased during the marriage.

Why are Pets Property in Florida?

One big reason is that this avoids lengthy court battles over custody of the animal. There will not be a fight over custody of a dog like there would be of a child. The value of the animal and other factors are considered in determining the equitable destination of the animal.

What Options are There for Pets in Florida?

The best solution would be to settle out of court with your spouse. Amicably deciding who gets to keep the animal allows it to avoid property division. While you can both make an argument in court as to why you should keep the animal, it is ultimately up to the judge. You and your spouse could also opt to negotiate a shared pet custody schedule. It may even be legally binding if this is included as a part of the finalized divorce. This would also avoid your pet being treated as marital property.

We know you love your pets. There have even been divorces where the loss of a dog was more crushing than the loss of the spouse. You should prepare for your animal to be treated as property and discuss the pet’s future during negotiations and mediation.