Highly Experienced In Show Animal Matters

Who gets the dog in a divorce?

Divorce can get messy. Spouses are debating on who gets the house, the boat or pool table. When children are involved, matters become more stressful. Then, there’s the family dog: No one wants to give up such a loyal companion. What goes into deciding where the dog goes after a divorce?


In Florida, a pet is treated differently than a person. There are no disputes about custody, visitation, or timesharing. Essentially, and as impersonal as it sounds, a family dog is viewed as property. Either you or your ex-spouse will technically own the animal at the end of the day. The Florida courts do not consider shared parenting, in this case.

A judge may look at a few factors when deciding who gets the family pet, such as:

  • Property distribution. Since the courts consider pets as property, the judge will probably factor in the house, furniture and vehicles. Marriage property is divided in a way that is fair, but not always equal.
  • Separate property. In some cases, an animal falls into the category of separate property. This happens when the pet was owned by a spouse before the marriage, instead of the couple purchasing together. The spouse who originally owned the pet will, therefore, gain full ownership.
  • Value of the pet. The judge will consider the monetary value of the pet. In addition, he or she will look at how each spouse contributed to the pet. Examples include who paid for the pet and who provided for the pet on a daily basis.
  • Health of each spouse. Similar to determining child custody, the physical and mental wellbeing of each spouse is important. Health can affect a person’s ability to take care of another person or animal.
  • Child custody. If children are involved, this plays a major role. The judge may determine that the custodial parent should have the family dog.

If both you and your spouse are struggling with the thought of separating from the family pet, you may want to create a “shared parenting” agreement. This way the pet is free to travel back and forth from each household, under your own unique plan. Your family law attorney can help you with drafting and include it in the official divorce agreement.

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