If your “baby” is the furry kind and you are getting divorced, it is important to understand that the courts of law do not consider pets to be members of the family. In fact, the court views your dog, cat or other pet as an asset. However, for many divorcing couples, emotions run high when it comes to determining who gets custody over pets.
Even though you do not consider your pet to be an asset like your couch or vehicle – that is exactly how the court treats animals. As a result, the court will not grant visitation rights. SeeBennett v. Bennett (655 So2d 109 (Fla.App. 1 Dist., 1995). Further, if you brought the pet into the marriage, you will likely be awarded ownership of the pet in the divorce.
It is also common for divorcing couples to use their pet as a way to hurt the other party or gain leverage in negotiations. If your spouse is fighting over visitation of the pet, paying for veterinary bills, and other matters related to the pet, it can be exhausting. Legal battles over a beloved animal can be just as stressful and emotional as custody battles over children.
If you intend to fight over your pet in your divorce case, it is important to show that you have the financial resources and ability to care for the pet as well. For example, if the pet at issue is a horse, the expenses associated with boarding, feeding and providing medical care can be thousands of dollars. The court will want to see evidence that you can afford all the associated costs.
It is also worth mentioning that your pet may have difficulty adjusting to your divorce. It is common for animals to lose weight, whine, sleep more than normal and have accidents in the house. Similar to considering the best interests of a child, divorcing spouses should also consider the best interests of their pet.