According to the recent National Pet Owners Survey, over 65 percent of Florida homeowners own at least one pet.
When a couple files for the divorce, most people are understandably worried about losing the custody of their pet. Whether it is a dog, a cat, or a hamster, pets are often seen as extensions of their family, just of the furry or four-legged varieties.
And even though most pet owners have an extremely strong relationship with their beloved animals, it is important to remember that the Florida law still classifies pets as property. In other words, pets are also subject to the law of equitable distribution during a divorce proceeding.
Who gets the Pets in a Divorce?
In Florida, pets fall under the marital property but there are special factors involved when settling the pet custody. Here are a few issues that are considered when determining the custody of pets in a divorce:
The Emotional Value – If the pet is listed as a therapy or support animal for either you or your spouse, it is most likely to affect the court’s decision.
The Financial Value – If the pet is an exotic animal, such as a purebred dog or a rare bird, its financial value is significantly higher than “most” pets, therefore, commanding a considerable financial value. In that case, you may have to trade some other property to keep the pet(s) in the divorce settlement.
Child Custody Arrangement – If you are the primary custodian of your children, the court is more likely to award you custody of the pet.
Is it Possible to Prevent the Pet from Being Treated as Marital Property?
If you don’t want the court to decide which spouse will be keeping the pet(s) in a divorce, there are other options. You can discuss pet custody as a part of your divorce mediation, negotiations, or collaborative separation process.
Your divorce attorney can guide you in choosing the best strategies and create a plan that works in your favor. Working with a lawyer who is experienced in pets and divorce law ensures that you get a clean break without having any legal issues in the future.
Pets and Divorce: Is Shared Custody Possible?
If both you and your spouse are extremely attached to your pet, you may sign a written agreement to share custody rights. For example, you may agree that each spouse will get to spend every other week with the pet. Make sure you include this arrangement in your official divorce agreement.
Why Consult a Florida Divorce Attorney?
At the Law Offices of Patrick L. Cordero, PA Attorneys at Law, we understand how important your pet is to you. Whether you want to win full custody of your pet or want to become its primary custodian, a skilled divorce attorney can help you present your case in the most effective manner.