Florida pet lovers may be interested in changing attitudes regarding pet ownership during divorce proceedings. For some people, pets are considered "property" such as real estate or other assets that can be divided between spouses during a split. For many people, however, pets are companions and, in some cases, surrogate children. According to the results of a survey administered to family law attorneys by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, there has been a noticeable increase in the number of cases in which the custody of family pets is disputed as well as an increase in court acknowledgement of pets as assets over the past five years.
For many couples, this is an emotional issue. The vast majority of disputed-over pets are dogs, followed by cats and a mixed assortment of other animals such as rare parrots and turtles. Some pets carry a high price tag as well as high maintenance fees, like horses. Typical expenses such as day care might be considered when the divorce agreement is structured.
According to an AAML representative, a divorcing spouse might feel tempted to rely on the attachment one spouse feels toward a companion animal to negotiate another area of property division. If a spouse has established an intense attachment to a pet, the other spouse might use that as leverage, forcing their ex to give in on another issue. A recommendation from the AAML stresses that pet custody should be worked out by divorcing couples without court intervention if at all possible.
Custody issues and property division make up a large part of the divorce agreement. Marital assets may include the family pet, and care of the pet after divorce may be factored into financial responsibilities of the custodial spouse. The issues may be handled best by an attorney who could help a client avoid custody disputes in court.
Source: MainStreet, "Pet Custody Battles on the Rise in Divorce Court", Juliette Fairley , February 21, 2014