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Florida Family Law - Divorce

What Happens to Pets in a Divorce?

What Happens to Pets in a Divorce?

Posted on January 4, 2017

Divorces can be taxing, especially when it comes time to deal with splitting up common property and assets amongst divorcing spouses. But one thing often overlooked until the end of divorce cases, is who gets the pet?  Anyone who has a dog, cat, or other animal knows their furry friend is part of the family, however, in the eyes of the Florida law, pets are seen as property, not something subject to enforceable visitation or time-sharing rights.  When it comes to fighting for your pet in Court, here are some useful tips to keep in mind.

Non-Marital Property

Just like any other property you might have, if you can prove you got your pet outside of your marriage, be it before the wedding or as a specific gift to you, then you have a good chance of receiving sole ownership of your pet. Some ways to prove your pet was received outside of the marriage are with:

  • A dated vet bill with the name or breed of your animal that took place before the marriage
  • A copy of the bill of sale when you bought the pet
  • Receipts from pet supplies you’ve purchased before the marriage
  • Proof you specifically received the pet as a gift, aside from your partner

Pets as Income

Another factor that must be considered when granting ownership of a pet is if that pet brings an income to you or your spouse. Through puppy litters or awards won as a show animal, if there is an income being made, the pet is now considered a valuable asset. All profits received above expenses, would be subject to equitable distribution by the Court.

Pets are Property

Unlike children, pets are considered property under Florida law, and therefore neither spouse can be granted “custody” of the pet. Courts in Florida have already set a precedent that pet visitation if agreed to, or granted by a court, will not be enforceable in later proceedings. (Bennett v. Bennett, a 1995 5th District Court of Appeals case set the precedent regarding enforcement of dog custody issues. ) This does not mean that you and your spouse cannot agree to share your pets as property and provide for their care and maintenance in the future. Speak with attorney who can further explain the case law regarding animals and what types of agreements can be drafted for you and your pet.

Call The Roberts Family Law Firm, P.A.

Understanding that pet custody disputes are essentially another tactic used by a party to gain control of or leverage in a divorce is half of the battle.  Speak with a divorce attorney to better understand your position as it applies to the pets, and they can help you craft a strong argument in favor of keeping your pet. The family law attorneys at The Roberts Family Law Firm can help you determine which option might be best for your furry friend, and help you and your soon to be ex-spouse come to an agreement. To speak with one of our attorneys, call us today at 407-426-6999.

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