Who Keeps The Dog In A Divorce?
For many people, their pets are like their children or family members. The thought of losing “custody” of a beloved family pet can be such a deal-breaker for some that they may elect to not even move forward with a divorce so that they don’t have to risk losing their best friend or “dogchild.” Despite the quotations, this is not a comical matter. For many people, pets, such as dogs, serve as an important source of emotional support, and have sometimes been bonded to their owners for a decade or more. If you have a special connection to your pet, and are considering going through a divorce in Florida, or are already going through one, it’s critical to ensure that you have all the information that you need to move forward confidently. Talking to an experienced Florida divorce attorney is also an important step, regardless of where you are in the divorce process, to ensure that you can remain the owner of your pet.
How Are Pets Divided in a Divorce?
Pets are treasured companions and family members, however, under Florida law they are still considered property. This means that they cannot be “split down the middle,” and that ownership cannot be shared. Instead, one spouse must retain ownership if the dog must be allocated to one party during the equitable distribution process. It should be noted that this is only the case if the dog is considered marital property. If the dog belonged to either spouse prior to the start of the marriage, the dog will remain that spouse’s independent property. Additionally, if the dog is a seeing eye dog or service dog obtained for one spouse due to a particular need or disability, the dog may also remain their separate property. However, if the dog was acquired during the course of the marriage, it will be considered shared marital property subject to equitable distribution.
How Pets are Treated when it Comes to Equitable Distribution
Florida is an equitable distribution state, which means that all shared marital property is divided based on what the judge deems as a fair split. This may be a 50-50 split, but it does not have to be. The judge considers a number of factors in determining how the marital property should be equitably distributed between the parties. Hopefully, the judge will not have to be the one to make a decision about which spouse the dog goes to. There are many other possible means of determining ownership before you turn to a judge as the last resort. For many families, mediation is an effective means of determining which spouse should retain ownership of the dog, and may even allow the parties to work out a separate agreement that allows for custody and visitation of the other spouse (note that this would not be under the purview of a divorce agreement or equitable distribution).
Contact Bubley & Bubley, P.A. to Schedule a Consultation
If you are going through a divorce and want to make sure that the assets (and pets) that matter most to you are protected and remain your property, contact the experienced Tampa divorce lawyers at Bubley & Bubley, P.A. to schedule a consultation.