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What happens to the family dog during a divorce?

On Behalf of | Mar 6, 2024 | Divorce

There are many people across the nation who consider their dogs to be part of the family. So it should come as no surprise that situations where two pet-loving spouses decide to bring an end to their marriage can create an emotional and sometimes contentious environment over who gets to keep the dog. In the state of Florida, animals are considered property, thus there is no such thing as being awarded custody of the family pet.

If the purchase of the family dog took place before the marriage, or if it was a gift to one of the spouses from anyone other than his or her partner, then it qualifies as separate property. In these instances, the family dog would remain with the individual who acquired it or received it as a gift. In almost all other cases, the family pet qualifies as marital property.

Things a judge may take into consideration

If the divorcing spouses can’t come to an agreement regarding where the family dog will live, its future owner will be determined by a court’s discretion. There are a multitude of factors that a judge may evaluate during the division of marital assets to determine which party will receive the family pet, including the following and more:

  • Which spouse paid for the dog?
  • Who spends the most time with the dog, including feeding it?
  • How the decision could potentially affect any children involved in the divorce
  • Which spouse pays for the majority of the dog’s day-to-day expenses?

Given the examples above, it can prove invaluable to one’s case to present as much documentation as possible for any pet-related expenditures. Having the guidance from an experienced Florida family law attorney can also increase the odds for success of being able to keep the family dog. A savvy attorney can help create a proposed settlement agreement that might prevent things from proceeding to court while still being fully prepared to present the best case possible to a judge if necessary.