For Florida couples who are going through a divorce, child custody battles may create a good deal of tension and animosity. Property division may cause tension as well, and if the property to be divided includes animals, then that tension may run especially high. For many, animals are a part of the family, though the legal system recognizes them as personal property. In the event of a divorce, animals may make property division especially difficult, as individuals have sometimes used the threat of taking over custody of an animal as a way to leverage better deals in terms of acquisition of property.
Many lawyers who have seen battles over animals recommend that people who go into marriages with a pet enter into a prenuptial agreement that specifies that he or she will keep the pet in the event of divorce. In cases where an animal was acquired after marriage, some judges will determine who is mostly involved in the animal's care and use the findings in rendering a decision.
In some cases, people have resorted to animal abuse as a way to spite a spouse during divorceproceedings. In one memorable case, a lawyer reported that a woman was ordered to return a parrot to her husband. She agreed, but whispered to her husband that the bird would be dead when she handed him over. The judge admonished her and specified that the bird must be returned in perfect health.
While many couples are comfortable negotiating animal custody in a civil manner, this isn't always the case. A person who is entering divorce proceedings and hopes to gain custody of animals may be wise to talk to a lawyer who has experience negotiating settlement agreements that include pet provisions.
Source: The Daily Beast, "Divorce Is Going to the Dogs, Literally", Keli Goff, June 20, 2014