Working out a pet sharing agreement during divorce

A few states recognize pets as the beloved members of the family they are and whose fate after divorce can be a highly emotional thing for couples to decide. Their laws allow judges to consider pets’ well-being as a determining factor in what happens to them if spouses can’t agree.

Florida law, like the law in most states, still considers pets as property to be divided along with the retirement accounts and the furniture. However, that doesn’t mean that couples can’t reach an agreement on how “custody” of their pets will be shared – for example, whether they’re better off with one spouse or whether they should move back and forth between homes with the kids. You can also determine how the cost of their care (food, vet bills, grooming and other expenses) will be handled.

A non-litigated divorce makes negotiating your own agreement easier

If you have a collaborative or mediated divorce, you have the opportunity to negotiate a pet custody and sharing agreement that details these things and more.

Typically, one spouse is closer to an animal than the other, so custody may be easy to decide. There are also practical aspects to consider. One spouse may not have the kind of space in their new home that their pet – particularly if it’s a larger or very active dog – needs. They may be perfectly happy having “visitation” and taking them for the day or even just for a run or hike now and then.

As noted, when there are kids in the picture, the pet often stays with them and goes with them as they transition between parents. Pets can be particularly soothing to kids who are going through parental divorce – as well as to the divorcing parents themselves. What they should never be is a weapon for one spouse to use against the other.

The clearer your agreement is regarding your pet(s), the less conflict and confusion you’ll have later. By having sound legal guidance, you can negotiate an agreement that works for your family and considers what is best for your four-legged family members.

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