In most states, pets are considered property. As such, the parties, or the courts, divide up the cats, dogs, fish, and other family pets the same way they divide up the cars, the household goods, and the vacation home. Pets are just another form of property that must be dealt with in a property settlement.
However, as any pet owner can tell you, pets really truly are part of the family in most cases. Dividing pets can seem heartless when treating them the same as any other type of property. However, one state is leading the pack in changing this.
California’s New Pet Custody Laws
Starting January 1, of 2019, California has changed the way the treat pets in divorce proceedings. Rather than addressing pet ownership the same way they address any other item of marital property, California courts are now applying a different standard. When divorcing, parties can petition the court for either sole or joint ownership of the pet. Courts apply certain standards when determining who should get the pet. Courts may also order one party to care for the pet during the pendency of the divorce or legal separation.
Courts are now legally required to consider the care of the pet when requested by one of the parties. “Care” can mean the prevention of acts of cruelty or harm, as well as the provision of the following:
- Veterinary care
- Safe and protected shelter.
Any pet that is community property and has been kept as a household pet during the course of the marriage, is subject to the provisions of this law.
Florida’s Pet Custody Laws
In the state of Florida, pets are still considered part of the property which must be divided in a separation or divorce. There are no special provisions for the court to consider, such as the best interests of the pets, or who has traditionally cared for the pet more in the past. However, this is not to say the law will remain this way forever. California follows the lead of Illinois and Alaska, which also have laws that consider the well being of the pet in any divorce case.
Both the American Society for the prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the San Diego Humane Society support California’s law change. They hope the passage of this bill will lead to the reduction of homeless animals due to divorce. On the other hand, the Association of Certified Family Law Specialists opposed the law. They point out divorce courts already struggle with significant backlogs. Adding one more point of litigation, they say, can only contribute to more delays.
Are You Considering a Divorce?
If you are considering a divorce, the Miami divorce attorneys at The Carolan Family Law Firm, P.A. can help. Divorce is a difficult decision in and of itself. The divorce process demands more decisions be made, including decisions about assets, debts, child custody and child support, alimony, and, yes, who gets the family pets. At The Carolan Family Law Firm, P.A., our family law and divorce attorneys can guide you every step of the way. Contact our office at 305-358-2330 to schedule a consultation today to discuss your unique situation.
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