In the United States, a pet is more than just a dog or a cat. In fact, more than 60 percent of Americans consider their pet to be a member of the family. This makes pet custody a contentious issue if spouses decide to divorce. Unfortunately, Florida law only considers a pet to be “personal property.” Judges do not grant shared custody or visitation for a pet. If you’re concerned about who gets to keep the family pet following a divorce, there are numerous factors to take into consideration.
The best interests of the pet
Florida judges do not address the best interests of the pet. However, you and your spouse should. The parties should attempt to discuss the issue amicably outside of the courtroom. If the parties agree on a living situation, it may involve sole custody, shared custody or even visitation. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Who has more time for the pet?
- Who has more space for the pet?
- Who can financially provide for the pet’s medical needs?
- Who is the pet more closely bonded with?
The best interests of the child
Divorce is a traumatic event for children, and separating from a beloved pet can make the situation even worse. When deciding where the family pet will live, it is often best for the pet to share the same living arrangements as the children.
Many parties have an ulterior motive when fighting for the pet. Some parties use this issue as a negotiation tactic. Other fights involve spite, manipulation or control. If you suspect that your spouse has an ulterior motive for maintaining ownership of the pet, your attorney can use skilled negotiation tactics to solve the issue.
If the issue of pet custody can’t be solved between the parties, it goes before a judge. At this stage, it is important to prove that you have a greater property interest in the pet than your spouse. For example:
- Receipts for the purchase or adoption of the pet
- Receipts for veterinary bills
- Receipts for grooming expenses, food and toys
- Registration papers with your name listed as the owner
If you’re facing a divorce, your world may be turning upside down. An experienced Orlando family lawyer can help you restore order and ensure your beloved pet stays with you.