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Do property division rules apply to pets in Florida divorces?

When couples decide to end their marriages, there are generally two paths to the finish line. Couples who are able to remain civil with each other may elect to negotiate important decisions regarding their children and the division of property. The second path involves feuding couples who often rely on the courts to make those decisions based on evidence and testimony.

Although your family pet may be a well-loved and cherished member of your family, it is important to know that under Florida law, pets are considered property. As property, pets are not afforded the same considerations that we extend to children. A Family Court judge is most likely just going to decide on giving the pet to one spouse based on the theory of ownership. If this is the case, then make sure you can find your receipt from where you purchased the pet or any paperwork regarding its adoption.

Ideally, you and your ex-spouse will work out pet ownership on your own. If your pet is a significant part of your family, then it may be a good idea for you and your ex-spouse to brainstorm about formulating a pet parenting plan. Work out the details just as you might with sharing the responsibilities of raising your children. Talk about specific details, too. Hammer out visitation agreements and which party should be responsible for the pet's veterinarian bills or travel and kenneling costs.

If you and your spouse cannot come to terms, then you are essentially leaving it to the judge to make a decision regarding property. As a property-based decision, a judge will likely look at ownership papers, veterinarian bills and other documentation that might demonstrate proof that one party provided more care for the pet than the other spouse.

Regardless of which path you choose, it is always a good idea to consult with your attorney regarding your legal options for family pet ownership and property division. Courts are allowed to consider things like which party spends more time with the pet and how the custody of the pet may affect your children. Your attorney can represent you in court and convey the importance of your pet to your family.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Divorce Confidential: The Fight for Your Pet in Divorce" Caroline Choi, accessed Feb. 24, 2015

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