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What Happens To The Family Pet In A Florida Divorce?


While our pets can feel like a part of the family sometimes, Florida law still considers them to be property. This can have important repercussions during divorce, where one party may be granted sole ownership of the animal. Fortunately, it is possible to enter into other types of agreements with your spouse, in which you are both entitled to access to the animal. For help negotiating this type of out-of-court agreement, or to learn more about how these kinds of issues are litigated, please reach out to our dedicated Fort Lauderdale divorce lawyers today.

How Florida’s Equitable Distribution Laws Apply to Pets

In Florida, divorcing couples must divide their assets in an equitable manner. This does not, however, necessarily mean that a couple’s assets will be divided exactly down the middle. Instead, who retains which assets will be based on the assessment of a few different factors, including when the asset was obtained (either prior to or during the marriage), the value of the asset, and each party’s financial situation. When it comes to deciding who will retain the family pets, these factors will look a bit different.

Pet Custody Factors

Pets are considered property under Florida law, which means that courts will not take things like what would be in the animal’s best interests into account when deciding who will keep it after divorce. Instead, they will assess:

  • Who purchased the animal and when;
  • Who spent the most time and effort caring for the pet;
  • Who took the animal to vet appointments and cared for its needs;
  • Who is more financially capable of caring for the animal; and
  • The animal’s value.

Unfortunately, even a careful assessment of these factors won’t necessarily lead to the correct decision regarding a pet’s permanent placement after divorce. Emotional bonds, for instance, aren’t usually addressed. For this reason, coming to an out-of-court agreement, in which the parties come up with their own arrangement is often preferable to leaving the decision up to a  judge.

Reaching an Out-of-Court Agreement

Couples don’t have to leave a determination regarding a family pet up to a judge. Instead, couples can come up with their out-of-court agreement that is legally binding, but that reflects the parties’ wishes. Often, these agreements include provisions similar to a child custody agreement, with both parties dividing their time with the pet. In this way, families can work around their unique situations, ensuring that any arrangement reflects all parties’ (including the animal’s) best interests.

An Experienced Florida Divorce Lawyer

Pets pose a unique problem during divorce and it is not uncommon for couples to strenuously oppose each other on these issues, with both expressing a desire to retain full control of and access to the animal. Dedicated Florida divorce lawyer Sandra Bonfiglio, P.A. can help you navigate these, and any other divorce-related issues, that you might be facing. Call us at 954-945-7591, or fill out one of our online forms to learn more.


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