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Deciding Who Will Keep Family Pets


Along with coming to an agreement about the division of assets and liabilities, divorcing couples also need to decide what will happen to beloved family pets. Pet custody isn’t always easy, particularly when both spouses are interested in keeping the animals. The subject can be incredibly sensitive when pets are thought of as family members, but despite how the spouses view the situation, the Florida legal system views pets as property.

Legal professionals recognize the emotional bond many individuals share with their dogs, cats, and other pets. If you could use guidance on how a court will assess pet ownership and learn about ways to pave a path to the resolution you want, discuss your situation with a Port St. Lucie family law attorney.

Factors Considered in Pet Custody Disputes

Several factors are taken into account when a court decides who gets custody of the family pets, and knowing these factors is helpful for couples drafting their own divorce agreement as well. One crucial factor is whether one person had the animal before the marriage. Pre-existing ownership can carry weight in determining who retains custody. Additionally, the financial ability to care for the pet, including managing the costs of veterinary care, food, grooming, and other animal care expenses will be reviewed.

If there are still questions remaining, the level of involvement each party has had in the pet’s daily care will be assessed. So, for example, If one spouse has the primary responsibility of walking the dog, feeding the cat, and attending regular vet visits, this history of active involvement could tip the scales in their favor as they could be seen as a more committed caregiver.

When spouses need guidance on how to walk through a pet custody dispute, one or more of the following options may be helpful.

  • An effective way to resolve disputes amicably, mediation is when a neutral third party helps the couple spilling up to reach mutually agreeable solutions, This allows the couple to maintain control over the decision-making process while taking into account the well-being of the pet.
  • Pet custody agreements. Similar in some ways to a child custody arrangement, a pet custody agreement provides a clear framework for each party’s responsibilities when it comes to animals, including visitation schedules, financial contributions, and decision-making authority over animal care.
  • Co-ownership. While less common, some couples choose to share custody of their pets. This arrangement requires open communication and cooperation.

Talk to a Port St. Lucie family law attorney about what approach could work for you. When animal lovers work with a lawyer, care for a family pet can be prioritized, even if the couple is no longer together.

Bring Your Inquiries to a Skilled Florida Divorce Lawyer

Should you talk to an attorney about your desire to keep the family pets? Answering the question of who will keep the family pets can be a nuanced process. Baginski, Brandt & Brandt will listen closely to your goals and share possible paths forward with you. Contact us today to schedule your fee-free consultation.

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Port St. Lucie 8483 S. U.S. Highway One
Port St. Lucie, Florida 34952
Stuart By Appointment Only 100 SW Albany Ave., Suite 300k
Stuart, FL 34994
Fort Pierce By Appointment Only 311 S 2nd St., Suite 102b
Fort Pierce, FL 34950
Telephone: 772-466-0707 Fax: 772-223-9290 or 772-466-0907 Office Hours: 8:30 to 5:00pm M-F