Pet Custody Disputes in Divorce

Divorce: cat and dog sleeping

Pets are an integral part of many families, and for some, they are comparable to children. In addition to a profound emotional investment, pet owners may spend large amounts of money on their animals. Examples are grooming, health insurance, veterinary bills, fashionable clothing, and some even have strollers to take their pets on walks. Hired pet walkers, daycare, and specialty bakeries are commonplace. Not surprisingly, pet custody is a growing issue in divorce cases. For some couples co-parenting a pet, the fight for their animals is the most painful part of their breakup.

Florida law classifies pets as personal property, subject to equitable distribution in divorce. Their economic values are determined by their pedigree or replacement cost, similar to other household goods or assets in personal property analysis. Usually, if a pet was owned pre-marriage, they are given to the original owner.

Recent Pet Legislation

Animal activists such as The Animal League Defense Fund argue that pets are more than property. The law has made significant strides in recognizing the contributions of pets to our society. As of 2014, every state had felony anti-cruelty laws to protect animals. On 11/25/2019, President Donald Trump signed a bipartisan bill, making animal cruelty a federal crime. As of 7/1/2020, Governor DeSantis in Florida signed into law a bill that includes animals in domestic violence injunctions, ensuring their protection. Given all these changes, animal advocates believe that a divorce law revision that includes pet custody provisions is not far behind. Until this happens, it is best to seek a compromise with your divorcing spouse regarding shared custody and visitation through a legal avenue in collaborative divorce proceedings such as negotiations or mediation.

Considerations in Determining Pet Custody:

• Although it may seem inconceivable to put a monetary value on a pet, there are costs to consider, such as the value of a rescue pet versus one with an expensive replacement cost.
• Under Florida’s divorce laws, gifts are non-marital property. If the pet was given to a spouse as a gift, it remains the spouse’s property.
• If there are children in the household, they are already suffering from the pending divorce’s emotional turmoil. It is in their best interest to leave the household pet in their residence.
• Consider which spouse can provide the best home for the pet in terms of finances, appropriate housing, and time to devote to the pet. In the break up of a family, pets are likely to be confused, especially if they are relocated.
• Emotional support and therapy animals are trained to perform tasks to benefit a person with a disability. Pets should be left with the person in need of their services.
• It is in the best interest of bonded pets to stay together.

We Offer Quality Legal Services for all Family Law Issues

At the Remsen Family Law Firm, we represent clients in every divorce scenario. We provide caring, compassionate advice and aggressively defend your rights. If your relationship is ending and you are filing for divorce, it is in your best interest to seek counsel with an experienced divorce attorney. Our office will explore every creative option and find solutions for your most challenging legal issues.

Schedule a free initial consultation today at the Remsen Family Law Firm at one of our locations in Lake, Seminole, or Orange County, Florida. We can be reached at 352-309-0970 or 407-898-8822.