Pets are an important part of most American families. In some marriages, pets are considered children and neither “parent” wants to part with their fur babies. Many divorcing couples in Florida ask their lawyers to help them seek custody of the family pet, but this is an incorrect approach. Here is why.
In spite of how much you love your pet and insist that the animal has a personality and a soul, courts classify animals as property and treat them so during property division. This means that it is not possible to pursue custody of family pets the way you would with children.
If you and your spouse are not yet considering divorce, it might be a good time to create a postnuptial agreement detailing how the family pets are divided. If it is too late for a postnuptial agreement and your divorce is in progress, consider using the law to fight for your animals.
A good first step is to ask a lawyer for assistance proving that the animal belongs with you instead of your spouse. If you are the one that buys your pet food and other necessities, you are already in a good position. Other factors that may work in your favor include:
- Being the animal’s sole or primary caregiver
- Being the pet parent that always takes the animal in for health care
- Being the person that always spends time with the pet
- Being the one that plays with or walks the animal
In other words, if your spouse never interacts with the pet or provides for its needs, the court may decide that the animal belongs with you. Your lawyer can tell you what evidence you will need to fight for your pet during the property division portion of your divorce.