Is time sharing for your pet a possibility in an Orlando divorce?  Lawyers in Alaska are now working with a recently passed Alaska statute that allows a judge in a divorce case to award the husband and wife time sharing for a family pet based on “the well being of the animal.” Or as the statute says, a petition for dissolution of marriage “may provide for the ownership or joint ownership of an animal, taking into consideration the well-being of the animal.  Alaska Stat. Ann. § 25.24.210 (West).  This statute is a breath of fresh air.

In the majority of states, including Florida, the law considers pets to be personal property, like furniture or a television set.  As the court stated in Bennett v. Bennett, 655 So. 2d 109, 110 (Fla. 1st DCA 1995), “While a dogmay be considered by many to be a member of the family, under Florida law, animals are considered to be personal property.”  In Florida, personal property is subject to equitable distribution, unless one party or the other can show that the pet is their sole, non-marital property. Florida courts cannot order time sharing with a pet (although the parties should be free to enter into an agreement to allow time sharing).

The majority view seems to be slowly changing to fit the modern American view:  Pets are not personal property; pets are members of the family.  Legislatures in the states of Maryland, Michigan and Wisconsin have previously considered bills that would allow a court to order custody and time sharing for a pet, but they were not successful.  A Texas appellate court has previously approved of a trial court’s’ order setting a time sharing schedule for a former husband and wife’s dog “Bonnie Lou.”  The parties agreed to a one month on and one month off time sharing schedule.  Although noting that pets were personal property under Texas law, the court then stated that it “hoped that both Arringtons will continue to enjoy the companionship of Bonnie Lou for years to come within the guidelines set by the trial court.”  Arrington v. Arrington, 613 S.W.2d 565, 569 (Tex. Ct. App. 1981).

Call the Spence Law Firm and speak to an attorney about custody of pets in your Orlando divorce.