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Factors To Consider Regarding Pets In Florida Divorce


While not everyone is a pet lover, those who do adore their cats, dogs, and other furry friends would never consider them just another piece of property in divorce. It sounds so inhumane to think of divvying up pets just as you would furniture, vehicles, and a checking account. Unfortunately for those who believe these critters are members of the family, Florida’s property division statute treats pets as a thing and not as a loved one. They are subject to equitable distribution, which means they would be part of a fair split of property between the parties. A judge is not going to fashion a timesharing or support agreement for your pet.

However, parties can agree to share a pet in any manner they choose. The statutes encourage parties to agree on how to distribute marital assets between them, and mediation is usually ordered to facilitate settlement. With help from a Dade City property division attorney, it is possible to work out an arrangement that suits your family. When approaching settlement discussions and in mediation, you should keep the following points in mind.

Marital v. Nonmarital: Initially, an important factor is whether the pet is a marital or nonmarital, a distinction that matters for all assets and debts in property division. If one party owned a pet before getting married, the animal would likely be considered nonmarital. It is not subject to equitable distribution, since it belongs to the individual instead of the couple.

 Primary Caretaking Duties: It is helpful to consider not only which spouse may have handled the primary care while you were together, but how one person would handle the care after you are living separately.  In settlement discussions and mediation, the parties can always negotiate a way for the other to have visitation – essentially an arrangement for pet parenting time.

 Children’s Relationships with Pets: This is a very sensitive area, since the family pet is often a significant source of stability and comfort for children when their lives are being disrupted by divorce. There are usually two arrangements for parents to consider when the child has a strong bond with the animal.

  1. The family pet lives with the parent who has primary residential custody of the child.
  2. The pet travels with the child, transitioning between households. 

Courts May Review Additional Factors: Judges are often animal lovers, too, and some consider pets to be a higher level of property. By definition, “equitable” distribution means fair; a judge could apply some discretion when deciding what happens with pets in divorce. Also, keep in mind that the child’s best interests are paramount in divorce. A court might award pet “custody” based upon how placement affects the child.

Speak to a Florida Property Division Lawyer About Options 

To learn more about addressing pets in divorce, please contact The Law Office of Laurie R. Chane in Dade City, FL. Individuals in Pasco County can call 352-567-0055 or visit us online to schedule a consultation. After we review your circumstances, we can explain additional details on Florida property division laws.



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