I recently received a call from a gentleman who was preparing for a divorce, and he was concerned about a custody issue. Interestingly, the couple had no children during the marriage. He wanted to understand his rights to custody of a pet, in this case a dog.
In a divorce, the question often arises: Who gets to keep the family pet? Florida family laws are designed to protect the best interests of children in divorce. Based upon a myriad of factors, the court will determine what it believes to serve the interests of children due to social, economic, educational, emotional and other factors that will serve the children’s interests, and assign custody accordingly. Pets are not given to either of the divorcing parties based upon this standard. Rather, pets continue to be viewed by the law and courts as personal property. Therefore, the court will award the family pet or pets to one of the parties based upon the equitable distribution standard found in Florida Statute § 61.075. This means that the court will assign pets to parties based upon an analysis of various factors, including the length of the marriage, contributions to the marriage, the desirability of maintaining the pet after the marriage, or any other factor that would lead the court to reach a just result when assigning the family pet. One important factor can be the relative time and expense incurred by one party to provide care for the pet during the marriage. Also, the desire and ability to maintain care for the pet after the divorce.
Pets that were acquired by one of the parties prior to the divorce will remain the property of that party. Such pets are nonmarital in nature and not subject to equitable distribution in a Florida divorce case.
If you need help in a divorce give us a call for a consultation and we will be happy to evaluate your options. Call now (850) 613-6923.