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Who will get custody of the family dog?

Although a dog is viewed as a member of the family, no one in a divorce case is going to end up with custody of the pet.

A dog, or any other animal, is considered personal property, and personal property is divided between the parties pursuant to the equitable distribution provisions of Florida law. This means that there will be no fighting over custody and visitation privileges with the family pet.

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The trial judge in Bennett v. Bennett, 20 Fla. L. Weekly, D225a didn’t see it this way. The judge who presided over the case initially awarded custody of “Roddy”, the family dog, to the husband, subject to alternating weekend visitation privileges for the wife. The ruling created a never ending stream of conflict between these two parties.

On appeal, the decision was reversed. The appellate court explained that a dog, or any other animal, is allocated to one party or the other as part of the equitable distribution of the marital assets. The pet is considered personal property, and there is no provision under Florida law to order either custody or visitation rights of a family pet.

Several cases on record establish this principal of law. Two that come to mind are County of Pasco v. Riehl, 620 So2d 229 (Fla. 2d DCA 1993) and Levine v. Knowles, 197 So2d 329 (Fla 3d DCA 1967). Perhaps it would be a good idea for married couples to have two dogs, one for each of them, in the event of a divorce.

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