What Happens to Pets in a Divorce?

You love them, play with them, and raise them as your child. During your moments of emotional distress, your pet is often the only one to provide you with solace. According to the National Pet Owners Survey, 71.1 million – or 63% of – U.S. Households own a pet. The majority of those pets (or 44 million) are dogs. Simply put, everyone loves their pet. Although most people think of their pet as their child or family member, this notion is completely different according to Florida’s family law. Continue reading to learn more about how Florida views pets in a divorce and how an experienced Tallahassee divorce attorney could help.

Pets Are Property

Simply put, no matter how much you feel your pet is a member of the family, the family law courts of Florida consider pets as property.

Equal Distribution of Property

Since the courts view your pet as property, the rules of equitable distribution also applies. As a result, your pet can be awarded to either your spouse or you. The only time this rule doesn’t apply is if you are able to prove the pet is your individual separate property. However, you this is typically only permissible under the following conditions:

  • If you have owned your pet before you became married. This has to be proven through vet bills, through a bill of sale, etc.
  • If your pet was given specifically to you as a gift by an individual other than your spouse. This condition is essentially difficult to prove in court.
  • If the pet was bequeathed or willed to you.

Valuable Asset

If your pet is considered to have significant value, such as a purebred, horse, or a show animal, it can be considered a very valuable asset and will be treated as such.

Who Gets the Pet?

Far too often, when a spouses are unable to agree to the ownership of the pet, the judge orders that the animal to be sold. Then the remaining proceeds from the sale of the pet are divided based on arrangement the judge deems as appropriate. As a result, it’s imperative for you to have an experienced Tallahassee family law attorney protecting your rights.


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