Pets are often more than animals to their owners, with many viewing them as more akin to children.
This can make their fate in a divorce fraught with tension. While people may view pets as valued family members, Florida law sees them as property and treats them accordingly.
Is the pet separate or community property?
One of the first things courts consider is whether or not one spouse owned the pet prior to the marriage, making him or her separate property. If so, the pet is not subject to division. If the divorcing couple obtained the pet after marriage, judges consider other factors to determine ownership.
Are there ownership papers?
If one spouse has clear documentation establishing his or her ownership of the pet, it can significantly impact the decision. Purchase or ownership papers can establish that he or she has more rights to the pet.
Who took care of the pet?
Judges are more likely to award the pet to the person who was the primary caregiver. The spouse who was responsible for daily tasks such as feeding, grooming and veterinary care and paid for supplies invested more and is more likely to continue to care properly for the pet after the divorce.
What is the value of the pet?
Since the law does see pets as property, their value can matter in some cases. For instance, if the pet makes money through contests or showcases or are expensive and valuable pure breeds, judges may weigh in their worth into the overall property distribution.
Who has the ability to care for the pet?
Pets require a considerable investment, purebred ones especially. Judges may favor spouses who have enough space for pets to play, time to give them attention and the funds to give them a good life.
Can the spouses come to an agreement?
Florida does not set pet custody arrangements since it focuses more on settling child custody issues. However, amiable spouses may be able to negotiate with each other to set one up themselves.
Are there children with attachments?
Pets can be a great source of comfort to children in the tumultuous period after a divorce. When children have a bond with them, taking them away can impact the youths’ mental and emotional health. Judges keep this in mind and tend to place any pets children have emotional attachments to with the primary custodial parent.
The Pew Research Center states that over half of the population owns at least one pet. Animal companions occupy a unique position in society, and their placement during divorce is an important matter involving many factors. However, it does not have to be antagonistic; splitting couples can come to an agreement.