DogIn many Florida homes, pets are considered more than property. Instead, they are often considered a part of the family. That is why, when spouses divorce, questions over who will get custody of the dog, cat, or other pet can be just as contentious as questions about how the children will be raised.

But while you and your spouse may see your pet as another member of the family, Florida’s divorce laws take a different view. Often, Florida courts treat pets caught in a divorce dispute as marital property, not as family members. Because of this, and because our pets mean so much to us, it’s important to understand how the court’s treatment of your pet will affect your divorce proceedings.

What Does It Mean to Treat a Pet as Property?

In a divorce, a court’s “pets as property” approach typically means that the court will limit the amount of time it spends entertaining arguments about the best interests of the pet and which spouse can serve those interests best, the way it does in child custody disagreements. Rather, the court will see the pet as one more item of value held in the marriage and calculate it as part of the “equitable” distribution of assets. Typically, this means the pet goes with one spouse or the other.

When spouses can agree that the pet would be happiest with one person or the other, this arrangement typically does not pose problems. When both of them cannot bear to lose their time with their beloved pet, however, things can get more complicated.

Because the court limits the amount of time listening to arguments about the best interests of pets, having a well-prepared argument put together for why you should retain possession of your pet can be a huge help to your case.

Can We Prevent Our Pet From Being Treated as Property?

While Florida law views pets as marital property, allowing the court to decide which spouse will take the pet is not your only option. Negotiating a shared pet custody plan is one way you can work to ensure your pet still gets time with both you and your spouse. Discussions about pet custody can be part of negotiations, mediation, or a collaborative divorce process. Your lawyer can help you choose the best strategies and work out a plan that works in your interests and those of your pet. As always, working with an attorney who is experienced in divorce and family law is essential to ensuring a clean, legal break, and to avoiding painful, stressful issues in the future.

Contact Your Florida Divorce Lawyers Today

Divorce is often an emotionally-charged process. Having the right attorney on your side can ensure clarity and sanity throughout the process, so that you can move on and view the divorce as a step in the right direction.

At Beller & Bustamante, P.L., our lawyers can help you gain perspective, focus on your goals, and work toward the future you want for yourself and your family. Call us today at 904-288-4414 to schedule a consultation, or use our online form to request an appointment.