The family pet is a member of the family and it is no surprise that it can be a very emotional and contentious issue in a divorce. Pets may feel like children, but sadly, in a divorce, pets are treated as property under Florida Law.
The Court will first look at whether the pet is marital property or if it is separate personal property wholly owned by one spouse. Generally, if one spouse individually had the pet prior to the marriage, then it is likely that ownership of the pet will be with that spouse. If the pet was acquired and shared by the couple, then it is considered marital property and subject to Florida’s equitable distribution process.
Just like any other asset, the Court will put a monetary value on the pet and the contributions made by each party. Contributions can include who paid for the pet, who took care of the pet, provided for the pet’s necessities, as well as each spouse’s physical and emotional health and ability to care for the pet.
It is always best to resolve all issues surrounding the family pet outside of Court, as the Court will not impose any pet visitation. If the spouses can work out an agreement without the Court’s intervention, it would be not only in their best interest, but their pet’s best interest as well. It is important to understand and look for signs of distress in the family pet, as the changes divorce brings is often an adjustment to many pets. The Court will not consider these issues and, thus, it is important for the spouses to consider their pet’s emotional health during this process.
Another important consideration is with children and their emotional and physical bond with the family pet. Therefore, consider having the pet included in the time-sharing plan to maintain consistency for the children and the family pet.