In Florida, family pets are considered marital property. This means they are subject to the equitable distribution of property in a divorce. The equitable distribution of property is the legal process of identifying value and distributing all marital assets and marital liabilities acquired during a marriage.
Of course, people value their pets differently than assets and other property. Although the court begins by determining whether the pet is separate or marital property, judges may also make decisions based on who cares for the pet and similar factors.
Is the Pet a Marital or Non-Marital Asset?
If your spouse adopted their pet before you married them, they will likely be awarded the pet in the divorce. Likewise, if you bring any pets into the marriage, they will still be your pets after the divorce. This is because the property you had before getting married is considered separate or non-marital property.
If you and your spouse adopted the pet together, or your spouse gifted you a furry friend during your marriage, the pet will be considered a marital asset.
How Does the Court Consider Pets?
Courts vary on how they consider pets. Some treat them as personal property – no different than tables or lamps. Others may view pets as “personal property plus,” and consider the pet’s needs and each spouse’s ability to care for them.
In Florida, most courts may consider the following factors:
- Who is the main caretaker? (Who walks the dog, buys the cat litter, or takes the pet to veterinary appointments?)
- What is the relationship between the child(ren) and the pet(s)?
While Florida courts will not go as far as other states who may award pet custody, couples can negotiate pet sharing in mediation or private proceedings.
Why Don’t Florida Courts Act in the Best Interests of Pets?
At the Figueroa Law Group, P.A., we see why enforcing pet sharing and pets support would be difficult, but we believe the Florida courts should follow in the footsteps of other states and allow pets to be placed with the best owner. If family law courts simply make pet sharing agreements final, the court will likely not need to intervene further.
Our firm also understands that pets are more than JUST family. As pet lovers ourselves, we want what’s best for your whole family – dogs, cats, and all other pets included!
Even though Florida courts do not consider pet custody and pet support, parties can always work these agreements out on their own terms.
If deciding what happens to the family pet is holding up your divorce, our lawyers can help you find a solution.
We have 36 years of collective experience handling cases like yours with care, passion, and dedication – and we are available to take your call at (321) 248-1011 or answer your online inquiry. Please do not hesitate to contact us today.