Who Gets to Keep the Pets in Our Divorce?
A 2015 survey by the American Pet Products Association reveals that close to 80 million households in the United States own a pet, which represents about two-thirds of all households. When these statistics combine with relatively high divorce rates, it is not uncommon for couples to fight over ownership of their beloved pet when they separate. Although divorce laws consider pets to be personal property, most individuals value their pets far more than any piece of personal property, despite the fact that they can be expensive to maintain and have no market value.
Characterizing Pets: Are They a Property or Timesharing Issue?
To date, divorce courts have uniformly rejected any claim by a party over “timeharing” of a family pet. The reality is that as far as the law is concerned, animals are personal property, not children, and thus are not subject to traditional orders that one might see with respect to a child in a divorce proceeding. No matter how important a pet may be to a couple, the divorce court simply will not get involved in negotiations about pet ownership. While parties are free to enter into private contracts about their pets outside of their divorce proceedings, it is unlikely that a court would even uphold or enforce such an agreement.
Handling Your Pet During Your Divorce
No matter how attached you are to your pet, there are a number of considerations that you should take into account as you decide how firmly entrenched your position is with respect to your pet. Private pet disputes can be lengthy, expensive, and impossible to “win,” simply because a court will not resolve them for you. As a result, you should consider whether your changed living circumstances will allow you to fully care for your pet. For instance, if your job requires constant travel, someone will need to care for your dog while you’re away. Likewise, if your children are very attached to the family dog, and your children primarily will be residing with your soon-to-be ex, then maybe allowing the dog to stay with the kids is the best result for everyone involved.
Consult a Florida Divorce Attorney for Assistance
While disagreements over pet care often occur in the context of divorce, many couples are eventually able to set aside their emotions and truly give the family pet the best environment possible. Pets are only one of many issues in a divorce that can be highly emotional and difficult to resolve. While disputes over pets are not a traditional source of divorce litigation, they can be a bargaining chip that may be useful in negotiating a resolution of your divorce. Contact Vanessa L. Prieto Law Offices, LLC, today, and set up an appointment with an experienced Florida divorce lawyer who can give you proper advice about all of the property issues related to your divorce, as well as any other issues that arise.