Many families have a beloved pet living in their home. So, what happens to your pet in the event that you and your spouse divorce?
Florida law is very clear: pets are like furnishings and are given to one spouse in the divorce settlement. In many jurisdictions in Florida, local rules are enacted which prevent judges from distributing assets such as furniture or furnishings with a value of less than $2,000.00.
What does this mean for your pet? It means that you and your spouse need to decide who keeps your pet. Unless your pet is worth more than $2,000.00, and you can prove that with competent substantial evidence, the court will not get involved in determining whether there is pet “custody” or timesharing or where your pet will reside.
Fortunately, in Florida, you and your spouse can agree to what you want to do with your pet and reduce that agreement to writing which will be enforceable in Florida courts. If you and your spouse agree to transfer your dog when you transfer the children for timesharing, you can include this in a settlement agreement. Doing this can help the children adjust to different households and a timesharing schedule they didn’t previously have. This also allows each spouse to spend time with a pet that was cherished by all family members.
Many homes have more than one pet. Some families see this as an opportunity to each keep a pet, making things fair. This may or may not be best for your pet and your pet may experience separation anxiety from your other pet or from children who are no longer residing with them in the home full time.
Another option is for all pets to go with one spouse. If you or your spouse is particularly attached to the pet or owned the pet prior to the marriage, then it makes sense for that spouse to retain the pet or pets.
If you and your spouse are considering making any changes in your pet’s life, it is best to address the change with your vet. Your vet can help you deal with any new behaviors your pet engages in after the change. Often times, your pet might just need reassurance or simply time to adjust to the new situation. If your pet acts out in a dangerous manner, such as nipping or biting children or anyone on your new property, you might consider having your pet trained. This applies mostly to dogs, as they are easily trainable, act out to new situations and experience anxiety.
There are no hard and fast rules as to what you and your family do with a pet in the event of a divorce, but making a decision taking your children’s best interests and your pet’s personality into consideration will ensure that after the divorce is final, your children, your pets and you will be happy.
The law office of FIxel & Neave can help.