Who Gets Custody of the Pets?
Getting a divorce is rarely considered fun. You divide your bank accounts, property, retirement accounts, and more. The court has guidelines for how shared parenting works, or that fight might still be going on. There is one issue left though. Who gets to keep the family pets?
Traditional Handling of Pets in Florida Divorce
Under Florida’s equitable distribution laws, pets are considered personal property and are subject to division just like other types of personal property. How “valuable” a pet is lies in the financial value of the animal and not the emotional value. So how does this value work out in the court room?
In California, a judge ordered a couple to share joint custody of their dog, but neither of them were willing to agree with that judgment. Instead, they spent two years arguing over the dog, as well as $150,000 in legal fees. Eventually the wife was awarded sole custody of the dog.
In the case of a Las Vegas couple, the judge ordered everyone to go to the local dog park. Whichever spouse the dog came to would get custody of the dog. The winner of the dog was the wife and the husband walked away with $500.
Alaska Pet Custody Laws
Illinois and Alaska are the only U.S. states that don’t view pets as mere property. Alaska was the first state to adopt legislation regarding pet custody in 2016 and essentially created laws similar to those regarding child custody. Alaska legislation requires the court to take into consideration the well-being of the animal when making a decision and requires them to take into consideration time sharing and the sharing of pet expenses.
In cases involving domestic violence, the pets may be included in the protective orders and the violence will be taken into consideration when awarding custody. The court is also required to take into consideration the following:
- Which spouse has historically had the most responsibility for the pet.
- Which spouse historically has sent the most time with the pet.
- Which spouse is better suited to provide the care the pet needs both emotionally and financially.
Florida Pet Custody
Unfortunately, Florida is like the rest of the country and isn’t there yet when it comes to pet custody and divorce. Until the state catches up with states like Alaska and Illinois, it is in the best interest of your pet for you to work with your spouse to reach an agreement that works for everyone. Just like when trying to work out parenting issues with your soon-to-be ex, it is in everyone’s best interest to work the same way to determine how your pets will be handled during your divorce.
Contact an Experienced Florida Family Law Attorney Today
If you are considering a divorce or already going through one and have questions about how pet custody or other aspects of divorce are handled, contact the Orlando family attorneys at O’Mara Law Group today. We will be compassionate and understanding from your very first consultation until your case is finalized. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.