Divorce upends a family’s life in a major way. There is a significant financial toll on both parties. There is also the question of who gets the family pet.
Under Florida law, pets are personal property. This puts them on the same level as furniture and artwork. The court works to provide an equitable division of assets, so one party getting the pet may require giving something else up. While it can be a difficult topic, especially if both spouses are close to the pet, it is vital for both parties to work together to reach a consensus. One solution is for the family pet to accompany the children when they transition to the other parent’s home. Another solution would be for spouses to have pet (property) sharing agreement whereby each party would continue to jointly own the pet and each have specified time with the pet. If you are unable to reach an agreement on a pet, the divorce court judge will most likely just award the pet to one party or the other and place a monetary value on the pet, just like any other property.
The couple should try to reach an agreement out of court
As of right now, Florida courts have no right to grant visitation rights to a pet in a divorce.
Therefore, there is a good likelihood one spouse will get the dog or cat and not have to let the former spouse come over to see it. If the couple wants to maintain an amicable partnership, then it may be prudent to figure out this matter personally.
The couple should sit down and determine who is better capable of caring for the animal. When discussing this matter, the couple should consider who can actually afford a pet. Now that the households only have one income, the spouses should look at their income and see if they can each reasonably pay for essential expenses. Both parties should also consider whether one spouse had a closer relationship with the pet than the other. If one spouse regularly fed the dog and took it on walks, then ideally, that spouse will be the one to retain the animal.
In general, it is not ideal to swap custody of the pet like you would with children. Pets become used to their environments quickly, and it can be stressful for the animal to constantly move between houses. Only one spouse should get the animal.