Who Gets the Dog? How Custody Works With Pets in Florida

Divorce can up-end many aspects of your life, and if you have pets, the issue of who gets the dog (or cat) will likely arise. While you no doubt view your dog as a furry family member, it may come as a surprise to you that under Florida law, pets are considered property, and therefore are not subject to time sharing arrangements like children.

Because your pet is considered to be property under Florida law, it will be subject to equitable distribution – and must be owned by one party or the other in the divorce. The courts in Florida have no authority to grant custody or visitation of a dog, cat or other pet. And unlike with children, judges are not asked to consider the best interests of the pet when determining who will retain ownership.

When determining who will get ownership of the family pet, a judge may consider the following factors:

  • The monetary value of the pet and the contribution of each spouse to that value. “Contributions” may be everything from who paid for the pet, to who takes care of the pet’s needs on a daily basis (vet visits, feeding, grooming etc).
  • Each spouse’s ability to care for the pet.
  • Child custody arrangements: a judge may consider awarding the pet to the custodial parent (if there are children involved).

Is it possible to share time with your spouse when it comes to who gets the pet? The answer is yes, but not by court order. Because pets are considered property, any time sharing arrangement would need to be agreed upon by both parties outside of the legal division of assets and custody. If you can maintain an amicable relationship with your soon-to-be former spouse, you may be able to arrange an informal agreement where the non-owner still gets visitation time with the beloved pet. Another popular arrangement, when kids are involved, is that the pet will travel back and forth with children. Ultimately however, these arrangements will be something that you and your spouse would need to agree to and coordinate, and will not be court ordered in Florida.

The divorce attorneys at Anton Garcia Law in Tampa, FL understand that divorce can be contentious and that your relationship with your dog or other family pet goes far beyond monetary value. Contact us today for a divorce attorney that will represent your best interests and fight for you if you wish to be the sole owner of your pet in your divorce.