What Happens To My Pets In A Florida Divorce?
Money and property are important considerations during divorce, but family comes first. And for many, pets are an equal part of that family. A certain question plagues many pet owners as they navigate the tumultuous waters of separation – what happens to pets in a Florida divorce? Pets are more than just property; they’re family members, companions, and sources of comfort during challenging times.
If you’re facing a divorce and beloved pets are involved, it’s crucial to understand how Florida laws govern pet ownership. An experienced divorce attorney can provide guidance and advocate for your interests, ensuring that your furry friends aren’t overlooked in the process.
At The Bardine Law Firm, Johnny Bardine knows each client has unique concerns to focus on. Our team is here to help, no matter what your aims are with your divorce. Contact us today at (727) 605-7078 or through our website to learn more about how we can help you come out the other side of this separation alongside your favorite pet.
Pets as Marital Property in Florida
In Florida, pets are considered property, and the rules regarding the equitable distribution of marriage property apply. This classification may seem cold for our furry friends, but it’s the current legal perspective. This doesn’t mean that your pet will be sold off to settle debts like a piece of property or vehicle, but it does mean that both spouses have a right to ownership over the pet. The emotional bond between pets and their owners is recognized, and courts often consider this when making decisions.
While someone may claim a pet as personal property, most pets become marital property over time, especially if they become an integral part of the family. As we have touched on in previous blogs, marital property includes most things acquired during the marriage, as well as things that both spouses end up using, relying on, or in this case, raising jointly.
Equitable Distribution and Pets
Equitable distribution is a principle used in Florida divorce cases to divide marital property fairly, though not necessarily equally. Factors that go into the pet’s distribution determination include:
- The financial value of the pet,
- Each spouse’s ability to provide for the pet
- The emotional value of the pet
- The history of each spouse’s effort in raising and caring for the pet
The application of equitable distribution to pets is not always straightforward. For instance, if one spouse has a stronger emotional bond with the pet or if the pet is a valid emotional support animal for one spouse, these factors can sway the court’s decision. Another factor Florida courts have previously used is the presence of children; the custodial parent has a higher likelihood of gaining custody of the pet, as the children tend to be emotionally invested in them.
Divorce Agreements Outside of Court
Courts do all they can to promote healthy dialogue between divorcing couples. Judges don’t like making difficult decisions regarding a beloved family pet and would much rather the parties involved find a solution through a negotiated agreement. No one knows the situation better than the pet owners.
While not ideal in all scenarios, some commonly seen solutions to this problem include:
- Full custody of the pet to one spouse, visitation rights for the other
- 50/50 splits in ownership and time
- Pet ownership concurrently with child time-sharing
- Forfeit of ownership over the pet for one spouse, with concessions from the other spouse in separate areas of the divorce
Impacts of Divorce On Pets
Unfortunately, arguments over pet ownership are common in Florida divorces, more so than you would think. As a pet owner, it’s important to remember that divorces and separation can be just as hard on a pet that can’t fully grasp the situation. All they know is that they are losing a close bond with one or more family members.
To aid them in this time, try to:
- Maintain a routine when possible
- Provide them with extra love and care
- Avoid arguments when in their presence
- Do what is in their best interest
The best option for your pet may not be the one you want. However, if you want to fight for custody, you have that right, and we understand that giving up a beloved member of your family is extremely difficult.
Contact A St. Petersburg Divorce Attorney Today
Navigating a divorce is challenging, and it can become even more complex when pets are involved. At The Bardine Law Firm, we’re committed to helping our clients leave a marriage on their terms. Our experienced attorneys are ready to advocate for the rights of you and your pets. Contact us today to get started and learn more through a consultation.