When it comes to divorce, your animals count as property under Florida law. They are its, not he’s, or she’s. Thus, unlike children, there is no custody agreement and no visitation rights. You need to deal with pets as part of the property division process.
If you have two dogs, you could keep one each. Yet, most people would agree that pets have feelings, so they may suffer the loss of their canine companion in a similar way that your kids would suffer if you decided one will live with you and one with your spouse. Taking turns is an option, but as your dogs might not understand when you try to explain the situation, that too could cause them some distress.
Judges may not want to get involved in a pet dispute
A divorce judge might feel they did not spend years studying and working their way up the ladder to listen to a couple argue about a cockatoo in court. So, where possible, it is best to try and work pet issues out between yourselves in a divorce. Here are some things to think about that could help you resolve your differences:
- When did you buy the animal? If you alone bought the cat before you married, you should be able to claim it as separate property.
- What is the animal worth? If your pet is a retired champion show dog that you send out to stud, you need to consider the financial element when dividing property. Florida uses the concept of equitable division, so if the poodle makes you $50,000 a year, the person who does not get to keep it may be entitled to something equivalent in return. If it is a mutt you adopted from the street, money is probably irrelevant.
- What is your child’s attachment to the pet? Pets can offer great comfort to children in a divorce. Consider how you can enable that relationship to continue for the benefit of your child.
There is a lot to consider when dividing property in a divorce. If you can find a way to collaborate rather than litigate, it will be easier to reach an agreement that works for you and your pets.