Fighting for Fido: Who Gets the Dog After a Divorce?


In the U.S., pets are considered property in a divorce proceeding. This includes dogs and cats, horses, reptiles, birds, and any other type of pet you can imagine. When couples go through a divorce, they tend to have disagreements regarding custody of children and distribution of assets. But once the discussion turns to splitting up a family pet, usually heated emotions on both sides quickly turn to reason. It’s never easy to separate two people who were once married, but it’s even more complicated when it comes to figuring out who gets the dog during a divorce in Florida. Let’ take a close look at who gets the dog after a divorce. 

Imagine you are happily married and have a loving family. One day, you and your spouse decide that you want to adopt a dog. You both agree on a breed, buy toys, get food, name him Lucky, and officially make him part of the family. Then one day, your spouse decides they no longer want to be with you and files for divorce. They not only leave the marriage, but now they want your dog too! What are you to do? After all, you’ve created a relationship with your dog and seeing both your partner and the dog leave you can be devastating. 

Marital Property vs. Separate Property 

Since pets are considered property in the state of Florida, the laws regarding the separation of property apply. Although this may seem odd, considering your pets are more like family than property, this could help you gain custody of your furry friend. Marital property is considered to be any property that either you or your spouse acquired during the marriage, such as:

  • Property 
  • Homes
  • Cars 
  • Pets 

On the other hand, we have non-marital property, which is considered property you or your spouse had before the marriage. Non-marital property is protected during a divorce, unlike marital property, which gets distributed after a divorce. 

Equitable Distribution 

Now that we have established the different categories that your property will fall into, we should also discuss equitable distribution. In many cases, divorce can bring many emotions out, making coming to a resolution a lot harder. In these situations, equitable distribution plays a vital role in coming to a solution. Although this process is helpful, it does not always mean equal. 

This process involves a judge helping the couple come to a resolution. This is done through an intensive process that allows the judge to make their final decision in the custody of your furry friend. There are often criteria to help narrow down the best caregiving for the pet, which can be:

  • Who is healthy enough to take care of the dog?
  • Who is financially stable enough to take care of the dog? 
  • Who can spend the most time with the dog? 
  • Who has taken care of the dog more throughout the marriage? 

Although these questions are not set in stone, they can be a glimpse into what you expect the judge to ask about during the proceedings. The most significant risk both you and your spouse take when the court decides the fate of your dog is that it could be hard to make changes to the final decision. It could also entail the dog not going to the best home even if the judge decides otherwise. 

Here at Cobb Cole, Attorneys at Law, we understand that going through a divorce can be difficult. If you are worried about the distribution of your property during a divorce and who will get the dog contact us today!