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How to Determine Pet Custody in Your Florida Divorce


For most people, a family pet is more like a member of the family than a part of the assets. The pet is spoiled by both spouses and well-loved by the entire family. However, in the event of a divorce, how do you handle custody of your furry friends? And, where does Florida law stand on determining pet custody as part of your divorce negotiations.

Unfortunately, like in many other states, Florida treats an animal as personal property. This means that it is subject to equitable distribution like other marital assets. If you have questions on asset distribution in your divorce, it’s important to speak with a Boca Raton division of assets attorney who can answer with specifics on your particular case.

Does Florida Recognize Visitation for Pets?

Some states will allow the court to award visitation rights, but Florida is not one of them. Because the courts are already struggling to keep up with enforcing custody rulings and visitation of children, there was no way to allow for anything else when it comes to visitation rights for your pets. You and your soon-to-be ex can reach a private agreement on visitation, but you cannot go to court in order to have it enforced.

Essentially, you and your spouse would have to outline an agreement in a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement to determine what happens to your pets. It can state that one spouse will have custody while the other will be given visitation at specified intervals. You can even set forth how you will share expenses for the pet and what the process will be for making other important decisions, like medical care, for the pet.

Are Companion Animals Treated Differently?

In a situation where the pet is deemed a companion animal, the court might take that information into account. If one spouse uses an emotional support animal to assist with a disability or for therapeutic reasons, the court won’t order it be sold if the parties are unable to reach an agreement on custody. Being a trained service animal would make the pet more valuable. This means you would essentially have to give more assets or money to the other side in order to keep the division equitable and essentially compensate them for their share of the service animal’s value.

Determining Pet “Custody”

When you are trying to decide who should keep the family pet, answer some questions that might help you figure out who is entitled to keep it under the rules of marital property division. Some things to consider:

  • Did one of you bring the animal into the marriage?
  • Who was the initial owner of the pet?
  • Did someone in either spouse’s family give the pet to one of you as a gift?

If you answer yes to any of these questions, the pet may be considered separate property anyway and not subject to division in the marriage. However, if you and your spouse purchased the pet together during your marriage, it is marital property and will be considered in the distribution of assets.

Contact a Florida Family Law Attorney

If you need assistance with determining who gets the family pet or any other aspects of your divorce, contact the Law Offices of Schwartz | White today at 561-391-9943 to schedule an initial consultation.

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