Dealing with the family pet in divorce

Florida spouses may have a variety of assets that they must distribute during the course of their divorce. One issue that is becoming a more common and contentious matter in the property division process is the disposition of the family pet.

According to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, there has been an increase in cases involving pet disputes that are part of divorce proceedings. While there is often sentimental value attached to these animals, courts generally treat pets like any other piece of property. If the spouses happen to breed and sell the animals, the animals may also be considered business assets.

Although the law treats pets like property, courts sometimes assess which party should retain ownership by a process that is more similar to custody matters. For example, a court may look at which party has cared for the animals more. This may be the person who took the animals to the vet when they were sick, purchased pet food and other supplies and walked, bathed and fed the pets. Additionally, the court may look into the relative lifestyle of each spouse in order to determine which spouse has a more conducive lifestyle for raising a pet. For example, a court may award the family pet to the spouse who works from home and has a regular routine rather than the spouse who frequently travels for work and has an unpredictable schedule. A court may also decide to keep the family pet with the spouse who has custody of the children.

Individuals who are going through a divorce may decide to consult with a family law attorney. A lawyer may be able to provide evidence that shows that his or her client has cared more for the family pet or has a lifestyle that is more in line with raising the pet.

Source: Forbes, "How Are Pets Handled In Divorce?", Jeff Landers, April 17, 2014

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