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Articles Tagged with Pets

Approximately half of all American households are home to at least one pet. With a nationwide divorce rate that is currently hovering around 50 percent, “custody” battles over pets have reportedly increased significantly in the U.S. in recent years. A 2006 survey conducted by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers found about one-quarter of attorneys polled reported seeing a rise in the number of divorce cases that involved a pet. Some believe the increase is due to the fact that many people now view their cat or dog as a member of their family.

To most people, their pet is much more than a mere possession. Society appears to be slowly changing to reflect this attitude. In New York, Maine, California, and Illinois, pets are treated as more than personal property in domestic violence situations. Law schools are increasingly teaching animal and pet rights courses. Additionally, pets are now included in U.S. government evacuation and disaster plans.

Unfortunately, pets are still viewed as personal property under Florida law. To a court, a dog or cat is viewed as property that is similar to a television or a piece of jewelry. In 1995, Florida’s First District Court of Appeal stated in Bennett v. Bennett that household pets are personal property and there is no basis in the law for granting visitation or custody for them. The court said that although many individuals consider pets to be members of their family, the court system was already overwhelmed with child visitation and custody awards and could not enforce similar awards for animals. The Bennett court also remanded the appellate case and directed the trial court to treat the family dog as personal property.

Unless a divorcing couple in Florida can reach a shared pet custody arrangement, a cat or dog will be treated like any other piece of property and awarded to one party or the other. Because of this, some divorcing spouses will give up large sums of money in a marital property settlement in order to keep a cat or dog. Sometimes, pets may also be used as a bargaining chip or tool for revenge in acrimonious divorce cases. Mediation, arbitration, or a negotiated divorce settlement agreement may make a divorce where pets are involved progress more smoothly. A qualified Miami divorce attorney can help.

Most family law matters can be resolved outside of court through a negotiated settlement. Postnuptial agreements such as marital settlement agreements may be entered into by married couples who are contemplating divorce or separation. A postnuptial agreement will normally address the disposition of pets, assets, and any agreed upon spousal support obligations. If you are considering dissolving your marriage, you are advised to contact a hardworking Aventura divorce lawyer early on in the process.
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When you hire your Broward divorce lawyer, you will most likely discuss your house, your furnishings, alimony, child support and custody and time-sharing with your children. During a Fort Lauderdale divorce, everything can become contentious. A common questioned asked to marital and family law attorneys in Fort Lauderdale relates to which spouse will ultimately get custody of the dog or cat.

In Miami-Dade and Broward, who gets the pet is a common point of contention in the office of divorce attorneys and mediators, and even sometimes in the courtroom. Most spouses manage to work out pet arrangements without the need of the Florida marital and family law judge. In Florida, judges have to follow the law related to pets. The law and case precedent state that animals are property, and that means that neither party can have custody, time-sharing, visitation or shared parental responsibility with the dog or cat. Insofar as a pet is property, it is subject to equitable distribution like all of your other assets

Just like your pension, furniture and car, pets are considered personal property, and legally, it can only be awarded to one person. If a pet is acquired during the marriage and is not a gift to one party from another person outside of the marriage, it is an asset subject to equitable distribution. In awarding the pet to one of the parties, the court will look at who spent time with the pet, fed it, cared for it, and had the closest bond with it.