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What Happens to Pets in Divorce Custody Battles?


TIME magazine recently featured an important article on the prominent role pet custody proceedings now play in a number of divorces when couples have not spelled out what their intended arrangements are for their pets in pre- or postnuptial agreements. For a number of people, their pets have essentially become like their children, which often turns these battles into costly, expensive, time-consuming fights that can take years to work through and thousands in legal fees.

These battles are also becoming more and more common, all while most state laws (including those in Florida) are completely ill-equipped to address the issue because they still equate pets with property, which results in courts unable to easily adjudicate long drawn-out battles that then become both emotionally and financially costly.

Pets Valued as Family

According to a survey from the American Veterinary Medical Association, 80 percent of pet owners now consider their pets to be family members. The millennial generation in particular appears to consider pets to be similar to family members: Almost 70 percent surveyed indicated that they would take time off from work to care for a pet. In addition, 60 percent of men and 80 percent of women consider their pets to be their “fur babies.” More and more pets are adopted instead of purchased from breeders or pet shops, and most are considered to be “mutts” by their owners, meaning that pets are no longer valued for financial reasons, but rather for the love that they bring as family members.

How The Law Views Treats Pets in Custody Battles

In instances of divorce, when the court does not have an official agreement regarding pet custody, a judge will assign ownership based on who adopted or purchased the pet, or who financially cared for the pet, etc. However, some couples with multiple pets that bonded over the course of the marriage decide that they want to keep the pets together and either have one person keep them or split custody. Still, if the arrangement is not made official, it is subject to one person potentially changing their mind, which can then lead to a court battle. This happens more often than one might think, especially if one person believes that the other is not properly caring for the pets.

Save Yourself the Hassle: Discuss What Matters Most to You with A Florida Prenuptial Attorney

There is no question that pets are more than property. They have awareness, sentience, emotions, love, inherent value, and a special place in our families. Still, unfortunately, the law lags behind the science when it comes to their place and value in our lives. No one sets out to get married expecting their union to dissolve and the fight for their pets to be the most painful part of their divorce. However, without proper planning, people can end up spending their life savings dealing with legal disputes just to hold onto that which they love the most in this world.

Those who have gone through it have all said that they would do things differently this time around; that they would save the heartache, money, time, stress, and fight by simply addressing it all in a prenuptial agreement ahead of time. If you have any questions about prenuptial agreements, contact our Orlando divorce attorneys at Greater Orlando Family Law today to find out how we can help.




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