Are your pets considered to be members of the family? If you are like many people in Florida, your dogs and cats are essentially your children, and you treat them as such. At times, you may even treat them better than the humans in the family. Today’s pets are pampered and treated in a way that our grandparents and great-grandparents would have considered silly, to put it nicely.
What happens to those “children” when a couple gets divorced in Florida? You may believe that a judge will hear your case on how much you love your pets and how you are really the one that feeds and walks them, but the truth is that pets are considered to be marital property in the state of Florida. The decision to consider pets as property dates back to a 1995 case. The court determined that they were already overloaded dealing with custody issues involving human children, and couldn’t take on the responsibility of deciding custody of pets.
How That Applies to You
This is all well and good, but what does it mean to you? It means that your dogs and cats (and other small animals) will be treated as personal property and subject to equitable distribution laws. It is always in the best interest of the divorcing couple to make a decision with regards to who gets to keep the pets before they get to court. You and your soon-to-be ex are more than welcome to negotiate any type of settlement you like when it comes to your four-legged children, including visitation, payments and more. If you can come to an agreement, the judge will likely put it in the divorce decree.
Currently, Alaska is one of the only states in the nation that has allowed pets to be treated as human, at least when it comes to custody issues. In a 2017 case, the state gave a divorcing couple joint custody of their pet. Whether or not other states follow suit remains to be seen.
Questions to Consider for Pet Custody
For now, deciding who gets to keep the dog is important if you don’t want a judge to make the decision for you. Here are some things to consider:
- Who will have the means to support the pet?
- Who will have more time to take care of the pet?
- Does one of you travel more often than the other?
- Is one of you keeping the house, or will one of you have to move?
- Who is the primary caregiver of the pets now?
It can be tempting for one partner to demand custody of the pet just to hurt the other person. It is also common for one person to take the pets despite not being sure where they will end up living and not having the time and funds necessary to properly care for the pet. Try to make the decision with the pet’s best interest in mind.
If you need assistance with this or other divorce issues in Orlando, reach out to our office. We know that you are under a great deal of stress, and we want to assist you in any way we can. Call our office today for more information about your legal rights in Florida and how we can help you.