Giving Men An Equal Voice In Divorce

Who gets the dog in a Florida divorce?

On Behalf of | May 24, 2024 | Divorce

If you think a custody battle over the children can get difficult in a divorce, wait until you see what happens when the dog (or another family pet) is involved.

“Pets are people, too!” has been a rally cry for a lot of animal enthusiasts over the years, but that’s not really how the laws in most states – including Florida – view the matter. Here, pets are property – something more akin to a couch than a child.

What does that ultimately mean for your pet in a divorce?

Ultimately, since pets are property, the court cannot set up a custody plan that allocates time with the dog to each spouse or leaves them jointly in control of any major decisions regarding the dog’s health or well-being. You and your spouse are, however, free to negotiate those kinds of terms between you through a private agreement that can be incorporated into your divorce – and some do.

If you and your spouse cannot agree on how to handle the dog after your divorce, however, the court is going to step in and make decisions the same way they would any other property issue. That will generally mean:

  • Determining whether the dog is marital or nonmarital property. If the dog is non-marital property, then it generally will go back to the spouse who brought the dog into the marriage.
  • The value of the animal. If the dog is a valuable breed or a showrunner and part of marital property, that means its approximate worth has to be calculated into the marital estate so that it can be factored into the equitable division process. One spouse may be able to keep the dog by trading against other valuable assets.

Finally, although the law doesn’t require the court to consider the dog’s well-being in any decisions, the court may choose to do so when awarding the animal to one party. To that end, the court may look at who takes the dog to the vet, grooms the animal, plays with the animal and serves as its primary caretaker. 

Issues involving pets can be unpredictable if left in the hands of the court. Negotiation is usually the wiser course, but experienced legal guidance can help you learn more.