Custody of Family Pets in a Florida Divorce
In Fort Lauderdale, pets accompany their owners on trips, dinners out, and during daily routines. For some couples, dogs, cats, birds, or other animals can end up taking the place of children, providing love and an outlet for nurturing instincts, in addition to being a source of emotional support. When going through a divorce, determining who gets custody of your pets is often a hotly contested issue. The following outlines how the court handles these types of matters, along with tips to help you negotiate the best possible arrangements for you and your four legged friends.
Florida Divorce Laws Concerning Pets
According to a March 2017 report in the New York Times, pets are increasingly at the center of disputes in divorce proceedings. Surveys among matrimonial lawyers found a 27 percent increase in cases involving custody disputes over pets, with couples racking up exorbitant fees while fighting over joint time sharing arrangements and even financial support for their animals.
Under Florida divorce laws, pets are treated as marital property and are subject to the rules of equitable division, the same as homes, cars, furnishings, and other household belongings. This could end up changing over the next few years, as states adopt new rules governing animals which acknowledge the emotional impact these proceedings have on pet owners. The Times report claims that pet custody legislation has already been passed in Alaska, and is set to be introduced in New Hampshire. The California courts frequently deal with high dollar, high profile cases in which pets are one of the central issues. Without laws specifically addressing the issue, these cases can take years to resolve, with couples racking up hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees.
Dealing with Pets During a Divorce
While pets are considered marital property in Florida, there are special considerations which are often involved in these types of disputes. Issues which may be relevant in determining who gets custody of dogs, cats, horses, or other animals include:
- The financial value of the pet. Purebred dogs and cats or rare and exotic animals can all cost significant sums of money, and you may have to trade other types of property in order to keep them in your possession.
- The emotional value of the pet. If the pet is listed as an emotional support or therapy dog for one of the spouses, this will be a factor in that person’s favor.
- Each spouse’s ability to provide for the pet. Factors the judge may consider include work schedules, housing, and financial resources.
- Child time sharing arrangements. The court is more likely to award you the rights to animals if you are the primary caregiver of children with an emotional attachment to the pet.
When dealing with these are other difficult issues in your divorce case, you need an experienced Fort Lauderdale divorce attorney on your side to protect your interests. Call or contact attorney Vanessa L. Prieto online today and request a consultation to discuss your options and how we can assist you in getting the best possible results in your case.