Are you facing a divorce in Orlando, FL? There are many issues that must be resolved, ranging from what happens to marital assets to child support and custody. An issue that often becomes contentious is who will get custody of the family pets.
McMichen, Cinami & Demps has more than 50 years of combined experience handling complex family law issues, including pet custody disputes. If you and your spouse cannot agree on who will get the family pet in a divorce, our law firm is prepared to help. Contact our law office or call us at (407) 898-2161 for a free initial consultation with an Orlando pet custody lawyer to discuss your case.
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How McMichen, Cinami & Demps Can Help You with a Pet Custody Dispute in Orlando
At McMichen, Cinami & Demps, we understand how important your pet is to you. We recognize that it may seem unfair for Florida law to treat animals as personal property. Rather than letting a judge decide who will keep your family pet, we believe that negotiating with your spouse is the best way to fight for pet custody and the best possible outcome.
McMichen, Cinami & Demps is a family law firm in Orlando, Florida, with more than five decades of combined experience. We strive to help clients through divorce, custody, and property division disputes in the most cost-effective and stress-free manner possible.
Our team includes an attorney that is Board Certified in Marital and Family Law. We have also earned top accolades, such as The National Advocates’ Top 100 Lawyers and the 10 Best Firms for Client Satisfaction award from the American Institute of Family Law Attorneys.
Here is how our Orlando family law attorneys are prepared to help you:
Protect your best interests at every step of your divorce
Contact our law office today to schedule a consultation with an Orlando pet custody lawyer ready to help you.
Are There Pet Custody Laws in Florida?
Nearly 67% of American households own a pet. Married couples and homeowners are more likely to own a pet than other households. Not surprisingly, our society often views pets as family members. More than 55% of owners call themselves a “pet parent” and refer to themselves as “Mom” or “Dad” in reference to their cat or dog.
Florida is a pet-friendly state. Orlando was even ranked as the second-best dog-friendly city in the U.S. after Tampa, thanks to its pet-friendly restaurants, dog parks, and pet-friendly apartments.
However, it’s important to realize that Florida law views pets as personal property. Florida courts do not recognize pets when making custody determinations, unlike some states. Only three states – California, Illinois, and Alaska – currently have pet custody laws.
In Florida, pets are treated like any other personal property and subject to equitable distribution laws during a divorce. The relationship each spouse has with the pet is not recognized by law, only the animal’s financial value.
This means that who gets the family pet often becomes a source of contention in a divorce, especially when there are no minor children.
Is Visitation for Pets Available in a Divorce in Orlando?
Pets are considered personal property under Florida law. Accordingly, shared custody and visitation are not available in divorce cases. The Florida court system is already overwhelmed by custody arrangements and visitation for children; they do not have the resources to manage pet visitation.
However, spouses can reach a private agreement on pet visitation or shared custody after divorce. For example, they may take turns having the pet at their home and even make important decisions together. However, the court will not enforce these agreements.
How Are Service Animals and Therapy Animals Treated in a Divorce in Orlando, FL?
If one spouse has a demonstrable need for an animal, a Florida court will almost always award the animal to that spouse. Service animals and emotional support animals are not viewed as family pets. They may have been trained to provide support to someone with a disability.
Trained service animals almost always go to the party in need of their support. However, even untrained emotional support animals often stay with the spouse that has demonstrated a need for the animal.
In the case of emotional support animals, the pet will still likely be considered marital property and assigned a financial value.
Who Gets a Pet in a Divorce in Orlando, Florida?
Because pets are considered property, they are subject to equitable distribution under Florida Statutes § 61.075. The court will first make a determination as to whether the pet is marital or nonmarital property.
Separate property is property acquired before the marriage. Also, gifts, bequeaths, and inheritances are separate property if acquired during the marriage unless they are commingled with marital assets. For instance, if a family member or friend gave the pet to just one spouse as a gift, it can be considered separate property.
Marital gifts, or gifts from one spouse to another during the marriage, are considered marital property and subject to equitable division.
If you got your pet prior to the marriage and provided most of its care using separate assets during your marriage, the pet will likely be considered your separate property. You will most likely get to keep your pet. If you and your spouse bought or adopted the pet during the marriage, it will likely be classified as marital property.
If the pet is marital property, its value must be determined in court or through mediation. Both sides can present arguments as to why the pet should remain in their possession.
An experienced Orlando divorce attorney can help you negotiate with your spouse through mediation to reach a fair agreement on who will keep the family pet. For example, one party may accept another marital asset in exchange for giving up the family pet. If there are multiple pets, an agreement may be reached for each spouse to take possession of one of the animals.
If the decision is left up to the court, they may consider the following factors when awarding a family pet:
The financial value of the pet and each spouse’s contribution to the value, such as who paid for the pet and who cares for the pet on a daily basis
Each spouse’s ability to take care of the animal, including their work schedules and how they can accommodate a pet
Which spouse will have custody of minor children and the best interests of the children
Whether either spouse will continue living in the marital home
Which spouse bought the pet or owned it originally
Whether only one spouse is listed on the pet registration, vet records, and other documents
Whether the pet is listed as a therapy animal or emotional support animal for one spouse
Spouses can address pet custody using a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement. While these agreements can’t be used to address child support or child custody, they are effective for establishing which property will go to which spouse in a divorce. This includes pets. Parties can also sign a binding pet ownership agreement form recognizing just one spouse as the pet owner if a pet is acquired during the marriage.
Contact an Orlando Pet Custody Lawyer for a Free Consultation
Pet custody cases can be emotional and challenging. When neither party wants to give up a beloved pet, it’s crucial to seek experienced legal representation to work toward a satisfactory resolution.
McMichen, Cinami & Demps is prepared to put over 50 years of combined legal experience to work on your behalf. Contact our law firm to schedule your free consultation with an Orlando pet custody lawyer. We will give you the compassionate legal advice you need and help you present the strongest case possible for ownership of your pet.