Who Gets the Dog in the Divorce?
Well over half of all families in Florida own a pet, and when a couple with a dog, cat, or other animal decides to divorce oftentimes one of the most pressing issues is who gets the pet? Some states have begun to adopt new laws regarding pet custody in a divorce, so the rules can be quite confusing for spouses trying to figure out who gets to keep the beloved family animal. At the Law Offices of David L. Hirschberg, our team of experienced Boca Raton divorce attorneys is here to help. Call the office or contact us today for a free consultation of your case.
Other States’ Pet Custody Laws
States like Alaska and Illinois have recently passed pet custody laws that treat a pet more like a member of the family in a divorce. These new laws apply to pets that are considered marital property and does not apply to service dogs or pets that were owned by one spouse prior to the marriage. The judge must consider the wellbeing of the animal when determining which spouse the pet should go with in a divorce, and in some cases may even award joint custody over the animal. These new laws delineate a pet as something more than nonliving property and recognize the importance of a pet in the family home.
Pet Ownership in Florida
Unfortunately, Florida has yet to adopt more progressive laws regarding pet custody in divorce cases, and as such a pet is still treated like a piece of personal property in a divorce. This means that the pet is identified as either separate or marital property and negotiated for like any other piece of inanimate personal property such as furniture, art, cars, and more. If one spouse brought the pet into the marriage, it is considered separate property of that spouse and will return to the ownership of that spouse once the divorce is finalized.
However, if the pet was acquired during the course of the marriage it is considered marital property and either spouse has a claim for ownership. If the pet is marital property, you must be able to prove to the judge that you are the primary caretaker of the animal. Receipts for food and toy purchases, evidence of who takes and pays for the pet’s veterinary visits, testimony as to who feeds, plays, and spends the most time with the pet are all considered when the judge makes the final determination of pet ownership in a Florida divorce.
Finally, recent case law has determined if parties reach a private agreement to “share time” with the pet (i.e., a visitation agreement), such an agreement will not be enforceable in Court.
Call or Contact Our Office Today
Deciding which spouse should keep the family pet is never an easy decision, and if you need help keeping custody of your pet in a Florida divorce our office is ready to fight for you. Call the office or contact us today at the Law Offices of David l. Hirschberg in Boca Raton now to schedule an appointment to review your case with a highly qualified Florida divorce attorney.