Who Gets Custody Of Pets In A Boca Raton Divorce?

cat with woman

The breakup of a marriage involves making difficult decisions. This includes custody of pets. For many people, dogs, cats, and other animals are beloved family members and the idea of parting with them can be heartbreaking. However, instead of determining custody, ownership is dealt with during marital property division. Our Boca Raton divorce attorney explains relevant factors in these cases.

Pets Are Considered Marital Property In A Florida Divorce

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), roughly 70 percent of all U.S. households own some type of pet. While dogs and cats are among the most popular, these include birds, fish, exotic animals, and livestock, such as horses or chickens.

When determining custody of pets in a Boca Raton divorce, it is important to understand they are considered marital property and, therefore, subject to the rules of equitable division. This means that the judge will consider various financial factors in determining an arrangement that is fair to both parties involved. These include:

  • The financial value of the pet: Some animals are worth considerable amounts of money. Get a realistic appraisal and disclose this on financial affidavits.
  • The cost of the pet’s upkeep: Tally the total cost of food, shelter, boarding costs, and veterinary expenses.
  • The pet’s practical value: Let the court know if you rely on the pet as a service or emotional support animal.
  • Whether you or your spouse owned the pet prior to marriage: In this case, the pet is considered premarital property and not subject to equitable division.

How To Get Custody Of Family Pets

Under the Florida Statutes, pets are categorized as marital property in divorce proceedings.  This means the court is not permitted to develop a timesharing plan of the pets (i.e., like a child), nor is the court permitted under cent case law to enforce a private custody sharing agreement reached between the parties as it pertains to a pet.  Simply, put, the court must decide who receives permanent possession and ownership of the pet(s) in question.  To do this, there are still some factors that can be presented before the judge that are similar to those in child custody hearings. Important points that could influence your rights to ownership of pets in your divorce include:

  • You are their primary caregiver: if you can show that you were the primary person in your household to feed, walk, and groom the pet and take them to veterinary visits, you are more likely to be awarded ownership rights.
  • You have a strong emotional bond with the pet: It is usually obvious who has the stronger emotional attachment to the pet and when a spouse is simply using disputes over ownership of an animal to get back at their partner.
  • There are children involved: The court’s primary concern in cases involving children is making sure their best interests are protected. If they have a strong attachment to the pet and you have primary custody, this will likely work in your favor.

Reach Out To Our Boca Raton Property Division Attorneys

In any divorce, property division is a difficult issue. Disputes concerning family pets can be particularly heartbreaking. To protect your rights, reach out to The Law Offices of David L. Hirschberg, P.A. Call or contact us online and request a consultation to discuss your case with our Boca Raton property division attorneys today.