Divorce affects every member of a family. Divorcing spouses often experience intense emotional responses and stress levels, while children may struggle with the changes to their family dynamic. Everyone has to get used to new living arrangements, budgets and schedules.
Even four-legged family members can pick up on the intense emotions and lifestyle changes that occur during a divorce. Pets can be a source of emotional support during a divorce, but they can also complicate Florida divorce proceedings.
If the couple purchased or adopted the pet together during the marriage, then both of them may have a claim to the animal when they divorce. What can you expect the Florida courts to do if you don’t agree about your cat or dog when you divorce?
Florida views pets as property
Animals have very few rights under federal and state law, even if people do treat them like members of their immediate families. State law doesn’t discuss pets in the divorce code, but there are still standard rules that will apply to your family when you file.
There is an important historic court case in Florida where a judge clearly interpreted state law as it applies to pets in a divorce. Specifically, the courts found that pets are essentially personal property. An animal has a fixed financial value that will influence how the courts split up other assets.
Judges will not create a shared pet custody arrangement but will instead allocate the animal to one spouse and adjust other property division decisions to reflect the value of the pet.
What if you both love your shared companion animal?
If both of you love the rescue cat that you adopted during the marriage, one spouse could keep the pet full time and might agree to let their ex occasionally visit.
Moving between residences can be particularly stressful for feline companions, which should influence any decisions you reach outside of court. When the couple shares a dog, they can potentially reach a settlement outside of court that involves custody exchanges or visitation. Those arrangements can be especially beneficial in a family with children that have also bonded with the companion animal.
Knowing how the laws and court precedents affect major property division decisions can help those planning to file for divorce.