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How are Pets Handled in a Divorce?

For many people, a pet is a cherished member of the family. Some married couples consider their pets to be like children, especially if they do not have any children or they have an empty nest. If a couple decides to get divorced, each spouse may feel entitled to keep their beloved pet.

Our divorce lawyers in Brandon regularly hear questions about sharing custody of a pet or obtaining visitation rights to the pet. Some states have laws that allow courts to issue pet custody orders, but this is, unfortunately, not the way Florida courts address pets. Courts did not want to expend the resources to enforce or modify pet custody orders, since there were already so many child-related orders to enforce. Instead, courts in Florida decided to consider a pet to be property, which must be equitably divided in a divorce.

Deciding Who Gets the Pet

Obviously, you cannot divide a dog or a cat in half, so spouses must decide how their pet fits into their overall plan for the equitable distribution of marital property. Courts want to ensure that each spouse receives a fair portion of the marital property, and the law in Florida does not require that spouses divide everything 50/50. For this reason, many people try to offer their spouse a greater portion of other property in return for keeping the pet. For example, if you want to keep your dog, you may give up the right to valuable electronics or certain financial assets. You should discuss your specific options and priorities with a skilled divorce attorney.

Informal Visitation Agreements

If you and your spouse both want to have time with your pet post-divorce, you can try to reach an agreement to share the pet and create your own visitation schedule. However, it is important to remember that this arrangement will not be will not be enforced the same way a child timesharing order would be If the court order states that your ex-spouse gets the pet, it is up to them whether they want to abide by a visitation agreement. If your ex-spouse suddenly decides to stop visitations, the only way to enforce the agreement is under contract law, which typically provides only monetary relief under these circumstances.

Contact an Experienced Brandon Family Law Attorney to Discuss Your Situation

The possibility of losing your pet is only one complicated and emotional matter in Florida divorce cases. You should have the advice and guidance of a Brandon divorce lawyer throughout the entire process to protect your rights and interests. Call Carman, Bevington & Finegan, P.A. at 813-654-3444 or contact us online today.