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Who Keeps The Pets In My Florida Divorce?


When a divorce involves minor children, spouses often cannot work out custody arrangements. The same can be said about divorces involving pets. When a divorce involves pets, spouses may disagree on who gets the pets.

While many people mistakenly believe that “pet custody” issues are resolved similar to “child custody,” that is not the case. Florida law treats pets as personal property, which means disputes about who gets the pets are determined by courts in equitable distribution proceedings.

That’s not how most people feel about their pets. For most people, pets are their friends or family members, so the idea of your pet being treated as your or your spouse’s property may sound absurd.

If you and your spouse cannot agree about who keeps the pets following a divorce, speak with an Orlando family law attorney to help you resolve your dispute amicably.

Do Florida Courts Award Custody of a Pet?

No, there is no such thing as “pet custody” under Florida law. Custody and visitation guidelines apply exclusively to children. Many people mistakenly believe that courts use the same guidelines when determining who gets the pets in a divorce.

In reality, however, Florida courts cannot award custody of a dog, cat, or any other pet. “So, how do we decide who keeps the pets in our divorce?” you may wonder.

If you cannot agree on who will keep the pets, you may go to court to let the judge make the decision for you. However, do keep in mind that courts treat pets as property.

When you take your divorce case to court to decide who gets the pets, the outcome can be quite unpredictable. That is why it is best to have a skilled divorce attorney help you negotiate a mutually beneficial resolution.

In fact, with the help of a knowledgeable attorney, you may be able to work out some kind of a “pet custody” arrangement in which you and your spouse would spend time with the pet even after the divorce is final.

How Do Florida’s Equitable Distribution Laws Work?

Since pets are considered “property” in the eyes of the law, it is essential to understand how Florida’s equitable distribution laws work. Under Florida law, marital property is subject to equitable distribution. Note: The word “equitable” means fair and just, not equal.

When it comes to awarding pet ownership in a divorce, the court may consider the following factors:

  • How much does the pet cost?
  • Who spent more time taking care of the pet?
  • Who is in a better financial situation to take care of the pet after the divorce?
  • Who provided for the pet’s needs during the marriage?

What if One Spouse Owned the Pet Before the Marriage?

Determining who keeps the pets in a divorce is more straightforward when one of the spouses owned the pet before the marriage. Since pets are treated as property and any property acquired during the marriage is subject to equitable distribution, separate property is excluded from the property division process.

In other words, if you owned your pet before the marriage, you would most likely keep it after a divorce because your pet is considered your “separate property.”

If you cannot resolve your dispute out of court, you should contact a skilled attorney to help you find a mutually beneficial solution. Contact our experienced and results-driven attorney at the Law Offices of Steve W. Marsee, P.A., to discuss your unique situation. Call 407-521-7171.

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