Couples filing for divorce in Florida may need a judge to help them determine how their marital property will be equitably divided. Although some individuals may want a judge to see pets as children, dogs and cats are treated in divorce courts like any other piece of property subject to equitable division. When one spouse loves a pet like a child, the other spouse may try to take advantage of that party's emotional bond by extorting other property concessions in exchange for relinquishing a claim of pet ownership.
According to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, pet disputes have been coming before family law judges more often in recent years. People who own pets should be prepared to present a case to the court that supports a showing that they, and not their spouses, are the primary caretakers of the pets. Individuals should try to put their emotions aside and compile a factual record showing why they should be considered the true owners of the pets.
Such information could include a signed statement from a vet saying that the spouse in question is the one who brought the animal into the office for check-ups and treatments. Parties may also ask their neighbors to sign statements about which spouse was the one who walked a dog. If one of the spouses is going to have primary custody of the children, that spouse could argue that it would be in the best interest of the children to keep the pets and the children together.
An individual who is not yet facing divorce may want to ask a family law attorney about drafting a postnuptial agreement stipulating to pet ownership in the event of a separation. If a postnuptial agreement clearly states who owns the pets, a court will likely respect that agreement when ordering a division of property.
Source: Forbes, "How Are Pets Handled In Divorce?", Jeff Landers, April 17, 2014