How are pets handled in a Florida divorce?

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We love our pets.   How are pets handled in a Florida divorce?  In a Florida divorce the court treats pets as “personal property,” and handles pets the same way as cars, jewelry, pots and pans, and other items of stuff. 

The more detailed explanation of how pets are handled in a Florida divorce, was recently discussed by the 2d DCA in, Harby v. Harby.  (The Second District Court of Appeals (“2d DCA”), is the appellate court that sets the standard for Sarasota and Manatee Counties).  In the Harby case, the former wife requested the parties’ two pet dogs.  Among other points, the former wife argued that she should received the pets because the dogs were bonded to each other, and one of the dogs was her emotional support animal.  Instead, the trial court awarded the pets to the former husband.  Keep the pets with the former husband maintained the status quo the parties had adopted during their separation.  And “the parties used the dogs to comfort the children throughout the dissolution proceedings, and the children resided a majority of the time with Former Husband.”  

In the Harby decision, the 2d DCA reviewed the “law of pets and divorce” in several different states, where pets have special property status. However, the 2d DCA concluded that Florida is no one of the states that gives pets special consideration in a divorce – at least not by by statute.  Specifically, in Florida a court cannot “grant custody or visitation pertaining to personal property.”  (Personal property being the pet does in this divorce case).  

All is not lost for pet lovers.  The 2d DCA did make clear that a trial court may consider a divorcing spouse’s sentimental interest in property – such as the ordinary attachment a divorcing spouse may have to a pet.  However, that sentimental interest may not take priority over financial fairness between the parties.  (I guess this would be a case of high value show dogs – or something similar).   

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