Some couples in Florida headed towards divorce might end up in a dispute over the family pet. However, while the spouses might consider the pet an important part of the family, most states include pets as personal property, to be negotiated over in the same way as other assets.
Your pet as personal property
Since your pet is most often considered personal property, your options on how to decide who keeps the pet and if the other spouse has visitation rights is limited. You can negotiate between the two of you to decide who keeps the pet or if the pet will move from home to home or you can go to court and let the judge decide. In most states, however, the judge will simply award custody or ownership to one person. They will not consider joint ownership or grant visitation rights. During this type of court case, the judge will review evidence that shows which person spent more money and time on the pet as well as if there are allegations of pet abuse. Additionally, if the court makes the decision, then it becomes a legally binding decision. If you do not agree with that decision, you can sue for ownership, but this can bring up additional costs related to the legal battle.
Working it out between the spouses
The most time and cost-efficient way to decide what happens to the family pet after divorce might be mediation. Through this, you can work out several details, such as:
- Primary versus joint custody
- Visitation schedule
- Exchange of the pet for something else the other person wants
Make your pet your emotional support animal
Another option that might be available to you is to have your pet certified as your emotional support animal. In that case, the pet would not be considered personal property subject to property division rules.