Who Gets Custody of the Pet in a Florida Divorce?

Wed, Nov 25, 2015

Bankruptcy, General Legal Issues

8858904664_248a24d816_bThere are so many hard choices to make in a divorce. Who gets what? Who gets to have the pleasure of moving out or picking the new car insurance? Who gets the cars, dining room table, and beach towels? Do you sell the house or does one of you buy the other one out? More importantly, who gets custody of the children? What is the visitation schedule like? Where are the kids at holidays?

There are some hard and fast rules about Florida divorces since Florida has an equitable distribution law. This means that debts and assets should be roughly equal between the parties. So if the parties cannot agree on dividing property, it will be distributed equitably. Equitably does not always mean equally or in the way you would choose for it to be divided. And don’t forget that you not only get assets, you get debts. Of course, the way the debts are divided in the divorce do not always jive with what your creditors find to be equitable. Thus, while your former spouse is supposed to be responsible for some of the debt that is in your name you can’t always get the money if you don’t plan the division properly. So you need to be sure that you consider both legal, equitable, and practical solutions to divvying up the assets and debts.

So where does the pet division fall into equitable distribution? Umm…well, there aren’t really any hard and fast rules. It is not really regulated, such as custody division and deciding arrangements for children. When it comes to pets, just like children, one would assume you need to find the most ideal arrangement for the pet.

In addition, did one of you own the pet before you got married? Did you finance the dog together from a pet store? Did you rescue the dog because one of you had a particular reason more than the other? These issues are all be something to consider between yourselves. In addition, who could care for the pet best? Do you have more than one pet? Can you separate them?

Or could you decide a visitation schedule for the pet? Sounds sort of silly, but believe us, it’s been done. Maybe you each get the pet every other weekend. Or maybe every other day? Or one of you can’t keep the pet at your house for whatever reason, but you can take the dog to the dog park. Or maybe the pet moves with the kids as they go place to place?

But, how is all of this decided if the parties can’t decide between themselves who gets the pet? Sadly, pets are going to be treated like other types of tangible property and are subject to equitable distribution. The judge isn’t going to necessarily care about the pet like they would care about a child. Of course, they need to make a good decision for the pet but aside from that…they aren’t going to spend much time debating the issue if both parties seem to have equal rights and affinity for the pet.

Mediation is probably the best solution. There you can hash out who gets the pet along with other items of contention. Hopefully, as adults, the well-being of the pet will be considered along with who most wants the pet.

If this is a decision you are currently facing, we wish you the best of luck.

Attorney Christopher D. Smith, Sr. is designated a Board Certified Consumer Bankruptcy Lawyer by the American Board of Certification.  SmithLaw is located in Lakewood Ranch, Florida.  Attorney Smith concentrates on bankruptcy, civil litigation, probate, estate planning, and elder exploitation cases in the Sarasota and Bradenton area.  Call 941-202-2222 to learn more.  SmithLaw offers free consultations in certain areas, including consumer bankruptcy, probate, and personal injury matters.

Image: Some rights reserved by Rennett Stowe

Comments are closed.