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Is a family pet a custody or property division issue?

Just about every Florida resident either knows a pet owner or is a pet owner, so it’s no surprise that lawyers often have to deal with pet custody in divorce cases. As one would expect, it can often be quite an emotional task, because in many cases spouses have a strong attachment to a pet, much like they would to a child. In fact, according to a recent survey, about 27 percent of lawyers said they’ve seen an increase in the number of couples who fight over the custody of their pet.

To those who see their pet as a family member, it may be surprising to learn that courts typically consider a pet as property, much like they would a car or a piece of furniture. But it makes sense, considering that some pets, such as horses, hold a lot of value. 

The most fought-over pets are dogs, followed by cats. Other types of animals take third place, while horses take fourth. When it comes to the “other” category, lawyers have seen everything from exotic parrots to giant turtles disputed during divorces. No matter the animal, due to the emotional tie that some people feel, it’s no wonder that some spouses use a pet as a bargaining chip. Instead of letting a spouse have the pet, they may use it as a way to get some other property in the divorce.

Some courts are more frequently allowing pet custody cases, but the best way to decide pet custody may be to keep the matter out of the courtroom.

Source:, “Pet Custody Battles on the Rise in Divorce Court,” Juliette Failey, Feb. 21, 2014

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