Yaffa Family Law Group
By: Doreen Yaffa

Who Gets the Pet in a Divorce?


Disputes over property in a divorce are quite common. Spouses commonly fight over who gets the house, jewelry, and art, but many forget to consider the family pet. To many of us, our pet is a huge part of the family. We dress them up, feed them, and even sometimes refer to them as our children. However, under Florida law, pets are considered property, or a chattel and will be awarded under Equitable Distribution outlined in Florida Statute 61.075. This means only one spouse will end up with your pet in the divorce settlement, there will not be any time-sharing schedule and any back and forth sharing of the pet.

Although other states give pets special status, Florida courts discussed how that could be risky. Florida courts have held that giving pets special prominence in a divorce action would lead to time-sharing issues and continuing enforcement problems. Since Florida courts are already overwhelmed with time-sharing schedule issues and support matters related to children, Florida courts chose not to undertake the same responsibility with our beloved pets.

What category does your beloved pet fall into legally?

In a Florida divorce, your pet is considered personal property that is subject to equitable distribution in a divorce action. Florida Law on Equitable Distribution .  As sad as it sounds, your beloved pet is lumped in the same category as the family sofa in a Florida court.

How do the Florida courts decide who keeps the pet?

The Florida court will first look to see if the pet is a marital or non-marital asset. See Marital vs. Non-Marital Property. If the pet was purchased or adopted during the marriage, it is considered a marital asset. As such, it is subject to equitable distribution. As a pet cannot be divided like a typical asset would be and assigned a value, determining who gets to keep the pet can lead to disagreements between you and your spouse. If the pet is a non-marital asset meaning it was acquired before the marriage, the pet will go to the spouse who originally purchased or adopted it. The court will also look to see who takes care of the pet, decide if having a pet is a good idea for the parent who is awarded physical custody of the children, who can financially afford to keep the dog, etc.

At Yaffa Family Law Group, we understand that our pets are part of our families; you can speak with one of our family law attorneys at 561-276-3880 or visit our website at www.yaffafamilylawgroup.com to schedule your confidential complimentary consultation.