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Who gets custody of the family pet in a divorce?

Approximately one-half of all Florida marriages end in divorce. There is often a lot of discussion regarding who will get custody of any minor children involved. However, with over half of all married couples owning at least one pet, another issue to consider is who will get custody of the family pet. Pet custody can be a serious issue in some divorce cases.

Many people view the family pet as a member of the family. As such, this family member can become a tool in attempting to manipulate the other spouse into conceding other items of value in order to retain custody of a beloved animal. One thing to keep in mind is that, regardless of the fact that one may consider the family pet to be a member of the family, the court will view the family pet as personal property in divorce proceedings.

If it is believed that a beloved pet will be used as a tool in the divorce process, the individual who truly wants to retain custody can prepare to defend his or her claim to the pet by proving that he or she is the primary caregiver. This can be accomplished by providing evidence through receipts and statements from the veterinarian and from neighbors and friends regarding who is seen taking care of the pet. If children are involved, the pet is usually thought of as the children’s pet and may be awarded to the parent who has primary custody of the kids.

Pets are often an important part of the Florida family and can sometimes be used as an emotional form of manipulation in divorce proceedings. When this happens, it is often beneficial to seek the guidance of experts who can help negotiate pet custody as one of the couple’s personal assets. Documentation proving who the pet’s primary caregiver is will also go a long way in proving the case for pet custody.

Source: Forbes, “How are pets handled in divorce?“, Jeff Landers, April 17, 2014