Judges Don’t Care Which Spouse Keeps The Dog, But Divorce Lawyers Do
We have all heard the stories about the celebrities who battled it out in divorce court over their pampered pets. Jon and Kate Gosselin seemed more emotionally invested in who got to keep the family’s two German shepherds than how to apportion parenting time for Jon and Kate’s eight children; the breeder ended up getting custody of the dogs. In the heady days of the millennium, Drew Barrymore and Tom Green were married to each other just long enough for Green to get emotionally attached to Flossie, the Labrador retriever Barrymore adopted before marrying Green; a judge eventually awarded Flossie to Barrymore. Despite what your ex-spouse might say, you are nowhere near as self-absorbed as a celebrity, but you are willing to litigate over your family pet. The judge in your divorce case really does not want to make a decision about who keeps your dog, but this issue means the world to you. A Boca Raton divorce lawyer can help you reach a decision with your ex-spouse about who keeps the family pet, so a judge does not have to decide.
Are Pets Separate Property or Marital Property?
Florida law regards domestic animals as property, even if the animal is an eager puppy who wakes you up with kisses every morning or a cuddly kitty that curls up at the foot of your bed every night. Most family pets are considered marital property, since both spouses contributed to the animal’s care and financial support during the marriage. If the marriage was brief and you adopted the pet before you married your spouse, then you can make a case for the pet being separate property, but your spouse has the right to ask you for financial compensation for her share of investment in the animal during your marriage.
Can You and Your Ex-Spouse Have Joint Custody of Your Dog?
From a legal perspective, divorce is about money; it might be worth going to trial over a thoroughbred horse or costly macaws that survive for decades, but most judges would consider it frivolous to go to trial over a mutt adopted from a shelter. Despite this, emotions over family pets are real. The best place to reach a decision about who keeps the family pet is divorce mediation. Here, you can consider similar factors to the ones you consider in a parenting plan. Based on your work schedules, which ex-spouse is better able to care for the dog? Where should the dog stay so that the children will get to spend the most time with it? It is probably in the dog’s interest, and definitely in the cat’s interest, not to have to move to a new residence. Divorce lawyers understand the importance of family pets in divorce, even if the law does not.
Contact Schwartz | White About Family Pets in Divorce
A South Florida family law attorney can help you reach an agreement with your spouse during mediation about which of you should keep the family pets. Contact Schwartz | White in Boca Raton, Florida about your case.