My husband and I are considering a divorce as the best option for our mutual sanity. We are a childless couple with three dogs, one of which was acquired during our ten-year marriage. The other two dogs were each brought into the union by myself and my husband. These animals are more than pets to me – they are valued family members – and I cannot imagine life without them. What worries me is whether my husband will fight for custody for all the dogs, since they are closely bonded. It worries me so much that I’m almost considering staying married! How should I broach this topic with my husband without it turning into an argument? Can custody be shared in regard to pets? Is there a legal or psychological argument I can invoke?
– Confused -30-
Very interesting. I can’t say that I have ever handled a dog custody issue before. The courts in Florida do not treat pets as children and consequently, there is no “best interest” standard to guide you. You are best served by working out an agreement that you can both live with. The law in Florida entitles each of you to retain the possession of the dogs you each brought into the marriage. As far as the dog that you acquired during your marriage, you could agree to shared custody. Without an agreement, the Judge would simply divide all of your property, including the dog, as he or she saw fit as part of what is called an Equitable Distribution of Marital Property. If you are committed to raising the topic without it evolving into an argument, be prepared to work out an agreement that respects his wishes as you say he and the dog are “closely bonded.” Be prepared to begin a series of discussions and be patient. While you may reach a “joint custody” agreement, the Judge will not Order such shared custody without an agreement, in my opinion. I don’t believe that there is any legal or psychological argument you could make to the Court to treat your third dog as anything other than joint property. Thus, I reiterate that you are both best off with an agreement that you can both live with and to avoid the risk of litigating who obtains possession of the dog you jointly acquired.
Scott J. Brook, Esquire
Scott J. Brook, P.A.
1401 N. University Dr. Suite 500
Coral Springs, FL 33071
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