As a dog lover, my canine Peanut Butter is part of the family just like all of the humans. But, as a lawyer, I know the law doesn’t quite view him the same way I do.
Clients going through a divorce often ask me who will get custody of the family pet. I hate to break it to you but, in Florida dogs, cats and other pets are considered “chattel.”
What is chattel?
When applied to law, the term means any item of property other than real estate. It is personal property that is subject to equitable distribution. Your beloved pet is lumped in the same category as the family sofa. I know, it pains me as well.
How can I ensure I keep my pet?
During my years of practice, I have seen people incorporate their pets and their care into pre-nuptial or post-nuptial agreements. In the event of a divorce, there is a carved-out provision as to who keeps the dog and how they will be cared for.
What if I don’t have a pre-nuptial or post-nuptial agreement that includes Fido?
In a traditional divorce without any pre/post nuptial in place, our family law attorneys will draft agreements that include the furry family member. This can include (and I’m not joking) a timesharing schedule for the pet. The timesharing ensures that both spouses and the children can continue their relationship with the family pet.
There is some good news. In 2017, Alaska became the first state to require judges to consider the pet’s well-being the same way it would a child. This inspired Illinois and California to follow suit in recent years. Florida isn’t there yet, but hope exists.
If all this leaves you concerned about your beloved animal, don’t fret. Our team has successfully navigated this issue numerous times.
About the Yaffa Family Law Group
The Yaffa Family Law Group is a boutique law firm known for a range of specialized capabilities. We provide empathetic help for people going through divorce and struggling with family law issues.
Our firm embodies a unique philosophy. We’re dedicated to the intense, systematic study and practice of law, and deeply committed to helping our clients achieve wellness and peace of mind.