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Pet custody disputes a growing trend during divorce

Florida is an "equitable distribution" state, which means that anything that a married couple obtained during their marriage will be equitably divided amongst the two parties should they divorce. A common misinterpretation of this law is that the property will be equally divided. That may happen with certain items, but it is the exception more often than it is the rule.

So what happens, then, when the splitting spouses have a pet? Is the pet considered a piece of property, or can custody arrangements be made? It may not sound like a serious divorce issue; but for many people, Fido or Whiskers may be an honorary and loved member of the family, enough so that the argument is worth having.

Pet custody disputes are on the rise in the U.S., and the answer to how to solve them is muddled at best. Most states and courts will not consider pet custody arrangements, forcing the couple to work things out themselves. Any language pertaining to a pet schedule or pet custody will be stricken from the spouses' settlement, which can be hugely disappointing for a divorcing couple that has no kids, making their pet a significant member of their family.

Pet custody arrangements can still come to fruition, though. While most courts may reject the notion of pet custody, some judges and states are more open to the idea. If things can't work out in court, the two spouses can come to the bargaining table with their lawyers to reach a comprehensive pet custody plan that takes each spouse's schedule and personal matters into account -- which is often a more appropriate and satisfying conclusion for the splitting spouses.

Source: Huffington Post, "Pet Custody," Henry Gornbein, Oct. 23, 2012

  • To learn more about the complex situations that can arise when you and your spouse divvy up assets, please visit our Miami property division page.

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