Who Gets the Family Pets after a Divorce in Florida?

SMRL Law Firm serving Sarasota County, Bradenton, Lakewood Ranch, North Port, Venice, & throughout the state of Florida

Nothing about a divorce is easy. It can be a stressful, traumatic time for all parties involved. Often, decisions regarding how to share child custody or how to fairly split up property and assets can become contentious. If you have a pet, deciding who gets to keep your furry friend can often be just as hotly contested as these other issues.

Florida Law Views Pets as Property

dog and cat - sharing family pets after divorceYou love your pets and consider them to be part of the family. Unfortunately, the courts don’t share your view. Florida, and almost every other state, considers pets to be personal property. As a result, they are subject to Florida’s equitable distribution laws during a divorce. This means that the court won’t work with you to iron out a shared pet custody agreement the way they will if you have a child custody dispute. Instead, the court will rule that one spouse gets the pets and the other receives comparable assets from the marital estate.

Some factors the court may evaluate when deciding who gets to keep the family pet include:

  • The monetary value of the pet – Purebred animals or rare, exotic pets are often very expensive to acquire. This value will be factored into your property distribution agreement.
     
  • Financial contributions of each spouse to the pet’s care – This can include who paid for the pet, who spends money on daily care items such as food, grooming, or medications, and who pays for vet visits.
     
  • Parenting time arrangements – If you have young children, the court may decide to have the pet live in the home where the kids spend the majority of their time.

Is Joint Pet Custody an Option?

Currently, you cannot establish joint pet custody by a court order. If this issue must be decided by litigation, the court will give the pet to one spouse. However, it is absolutely possible for you and your spouse to create a pet custody agreement that allows both of you to remain an important part of your pet's life.

Joint pet custody agreements tend to work best in situations where the divorce is relatively amicable and both spouses are able to work together in a supportive, positive manner. At Syprett Meshad, our family law attorneys can help you create a pet custody agreement that reflects the best interests of everyone involved.

Contact our Sarasota Family Law Attorneys

If you need assistance with a divorce matter, please contact Syprett Meshad using the form on this page or call 941-365-7171 today to schedule a consultation. We serve clients in Sarasota, Bradenton and the surrounding areas of Florida.