Most people are aware that children can complicate the divorce process, as you need to decide how you will share custody of them. However, there are also other members of the family that might cause disagreements and hiccups in a divorce case – your pets. You might think that you will be able to share custody of your pets just like you would children, as many spouses love their pets equally and want the company, especially when they are living alone by themselves for the first time in a while. However, you might be surprised how pets are handled in a divorce in Florida.
Pets as Property
While you may think of yourself as a pet “parent,” the law does not consider a pet to be your child. Instead, the law considers pets to be property, just like your house or personal belongings. Florida law requires spouses to divide their marital property in an equitable manner, and each spouse gets to keep their own separate property. For this reason, it is important to determine whether your pet is marital or separate property.
Marital property is generally property that you and your spouse acquire during the marriage. This is usually the case, even if one spouse made the purchase on their own. For example, maybe one spouse wanted a dog, and the other did not. The one spouse went ahead and got the dog anyhow. However, both spouses then contributed time and money to care for the dog, so even if it was a unilateral purchase, the dog would likely be considered to be marital property.
Separate property, on the other hand, is property that each spouse brings into the marriage, with a few exceptions. If one spouse owned the dog prior to the marriage, they could argue that the dog is their separate property. If the other spouse spent years bonding with and caring for the dog, however, they might be able to argue that the dog became marital property. As you can see, this is often a difficult determination that is based on each individual set of circumstances and facts.
If a pet is marital property, it becomes part of the marital estate that needs to be divided fairly. Who gets the pet depends on the totality of the circumstances, including which other property each spouse is receiving. The court can also consider which spouse might be better equipped to care for the pet, among other factors. What the court will not do is issue or enforce a shared custody order for the pet. Spouses do have the option of coming to an out-of-court agreement about sharing a pet, though it will not be part of the divorce order, and you cannot enforce it through the family court.
Contact a Tampa Divorce Attorney for Assistance Today
Who gets a pet can be a highly contentious issue in a divorce, and a Tampa divorce lawyer at the Law Office of Mark G. Rodriguez, P.A., is here to help. Contact us online or call 813-227-9642 to set up a consultation about your situation.