For many families, a pet is considered another member of the family. Pet owners have a special bond with their pet as they invest time, energy, and love into caring for them. In return, they receive ongoing companionship and love. It is common to question which spouse will get custody of the pet after a divorce – especially if both spouses have a close bond with the animal. In many ways, a pet custody case can get as contentious as a child custody case. Today, we go over pet custody how the and courts determine who gets the pet in a divorce.
Pets Are Considered Marital Property
Although and your spouse may view your pet as a member of the family, Florida’s divorce laws do not. Florida courts treat pets as marital property, not family members. As such, it is important to understand how the law may impact your divorce proceedings.
You might be wondering if it is possible to divide time with your pet, as you would with time sharing as a parent. However, as pets are considered marital property, they must be owned by one party. Pets are then subject to equitable distribution like assets and other property.
How Does Florida Law Decide Who Keeps the Pet?
Your pet is considered personal property, which means pet custody, timesharing, and visitation are not concepts open for discussion. While this may be a difficult idea to accept as a pet owner, it is the law. This means your pet’s future will be determined as part of the equitable distribution of assets component of your divorce. The court will determine if the pet is a marital or non-marital asset, look to see who takes care of the pet, and decide if having a pet is a good idea for the parent with physical custody of the children. If the pet is dangerous it would not be in the best interests of the child to allow it to live with them.
If you find yourself having a hard time grasping this idea, it might be beneficial to seek out mediation or another form of alternative dispute resolution to avoid court and come to an amicable agreement about your pet.
Pets Are Subject to Equitable Distribution
If the pet was acquired during the marriage, it is considered a marital asset. As such, it is subject to equitable distribution laws. As a pet cannot be divided like a typical asset and assigned a value, determining who gets to keep the pet can lead to disagreements. If the pet is a non-marital asset meaning it was acquired before the marriage, the pet will go to the spouse who originally purchased it.
What Does It Mean to Treat a Pet as Property?
Essentially, treating a pet as property eliminates the court’s need to entertain arguments regarding pet custody, the way it occurs in a child custody battle. Instead the court considers the pet to be property and will calculate it as a part of the equitable distribution of assets. If you and your spouse can come to an amicable agreement regarding your pet, this would be the most ideal situation. On the contrary, if you both cannot stand the idea of losing your pet, you will need to present an argument as to why you should keep the pet.
Can You Prevent a Pet from Being Treated as Property?
Instead of allowing the court to determine which spouse gets to keep the pet, you could negotiate a shared pet custody schedule. That way your pet will not be treated as property in court and both spouses can divide spending time with it. You can discuss pet custody in negotiations, mediation, and/or the collaborative divorce process.
For assistance on pet custody matters, contact our office online or via (407) 753-4111 to speak with an experienced attorney.