Many Florida families may not view themselves as complete without a dog or other pets. These much-loved household members may, however, require special considerations of their own during a divorce. Because the Sunshine State views animals as property, a family court judge divides them under the rules of equitable distribution.
Generally, a divorce requires dividing assets and property fairly between the two spouses, including any pets acquired during a marriage. When a couple finds it difficult to decide who the family dog will continue living with, the court may award ownership based on who the dog bonded with, as reported by Psychology Today. If the pets bonded more with the children than the adults, the spouse awarded custody of the kids may wish to take ownership of the animals.
When a couple does not have children, and both individuals bonded strongly with their dog, the challenge for the court may be deciding who should take ownership of the pet. Florida judges do not usually award custody and visitation rights with animals as they do with children.
Some family court judges have administered a bonding test in the case of a dog-custody dispute; each spouse calls out to it while standing in the courtroom on opposite sides. The individual the dog responds to generally receives full ownership of it.
Show dogs and breeding animals
According to the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the law classifies animals as property. Animals trained for shows, breeding or other means of generating revenue are part of a couple’s marital property. Both spouses have a right to receive a fair share of the animal’s earnings if they relied on it as part of their household income. The individual who takes ownership of a revenue-producing animal may need to provide financial support to their ex-spouse based on the animal’s revenue.