Who Gets the Pets in a South Florida Divorce?


You are fighting over a house, money, stocks, furniture, children, and even pets, but what category does your faithful friend fall into? Unlike children, whose welfare and rights the courts take into account, Fido or Fifi are viewed the same as that sofa you are sitting on dog right now. That is correct, in 49 out of 50 states, dogs, cats, and other pets are considered property. The big question is who gets the pets in a divorce?

In all but Alaska, the best interests of the pets in question are not legally taken into consideration. A new law there may pave the way for changes in other states down the road as people contest their rights to their beloved pets after divorce. The Alaska bill will also allow the courts to include pets when they issue domestic violence protective orders. Owners will also have to cover the shelter costs of pets seized in neglect or cruelty cases.

Pets and Divorce in Florida

Florida views pets a personal property, subjecting them to the dividing of property known as equitable distribution. The judge has the final authority for ownership of the pets. Visitation rights and monetary support for pets are not granted in a divorce.

Some couples turn to mediation to discuss pet custody after breakup of their marriage. Just as with children, it is best to take the welfare of the pet into consideration. Pets, especially dogs and cats, have feelings. They can sense times of stress and discord. They may act out by soiling the house, not eating, or developing nervous habits or medical conditions. It is important for couples to put aside their anger and talk about what is best for the pet.

catWhile a child can be told that mommy and daddy will now live in two separate homes, but that both parents still love him or her, the same cannot be said of a pet. Your beloved dog will not understand why daddy is no longer there to play fetch, or why mommy is no longer providing those long tummy rubs. Caring adults will put the best interests of their pets forward in their divorce settlements.

A 1995 case in Florida’s First District Court of Appeals overturned a previous trial court’s granting of visitation rights in the Bennett v. Bennett case. Under current Florida Law, the lower court had no right granting visitation for personal property.

Until such time that Florida law changes to take the best interests of the pets into consideration, it is up to the couple, along with their attorneys and mediators or arbitrators to come to an equitable decision or leave it up to the courts to decide.

For additional information about pets and divorce law in Florida, contact Coral Springs attorneys at Brodzki Jacobs & Associates, PL at (954) 344-7737. We are available to schedule a consultation with you to discuss your divorce concerns and needs.



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