Tag: pet custody

Pet custody is going to California

Pet custody is closer to becoming a reality after California passed a law making pets community property but letting judges decide who gets to keep them. What is Florida’s law on pet custody?

Pet Custody

California Dreaming

All the leaves are brown, and the sky may be grey, but California just began a new era for how pets are treated after a divorce. A new law passed on Thursday makes sure pets are seen as more than just property when it comes time to split up assets in a divorce.

According to the San Diego Tribune, Assembly Bill 2274 will ensure care of a pet is taken into consideration both while divorce proceedings are underway and after they’re made official.

With the new law, a person can petition the court for sole or joint ownership based on care of the pet, which is defined to include “prevention of acts of harm or cruelty” and “the provision of food, water, veterinary care and safe and protected shelter.”

The law also adds a new ability for a person in the divorce to request an order that would require one person in the marriage to care for the pet prior to the divorce becoming final.

Florida Pet Custody

I’ve written on the development of pet custody cases and statutes before. Pet custody cases are becoming more and more prevalent around the country. That is because state lawmakers and advocacy groups are promoting the notion that the legal system should act in the best interests of animals.

Pets are becoming a recognized part of the family. About 15 years ago, states began to allow people to leave their estates to care for their pets. Recently, courts have gone so far as to award shared custody, visitation and even alimony payments to pet owners.

Florida doesn’t have pet custody or visitation laws. Florida courts are already overwhelmed with the supervision of custody, visitation, and support matters related to the protection of children.

Accordingly, Florida courts have not or cannot undertake the same responsibility as to animals.

I Remember California

The law in California used to be like Florida, viewing pets as property to be argued over in the separation of assets.

“There is nothing in statute directing judges to treat a pet differently from any other type of property we own, I know that owners view their pets as more than just property. They are part of our family, and their care needs to be a consideration during divorce proceedings.”

Now, rather than seen as a valued property item or dollar amount to be divided, the well-being of the pet will get more consideration.

California Calling

Supporters of the law hope the new law will lead to fewer homeless animals. But not everyone is happy. The Association of Certified Family Law Specialists opposed it, saying divorces already face significant delays and issues of contention in court, especially when it comes to children.

“By adding in sole or joint ownership of pet animals as a determination courts can make in divorce proceedings, the already backlogged family court proceedings may become even more delayed as judges consider the myriad factors that come into play when making decisions about community property division and child custody.”

The San Diego Tribune article is here.

 

Pet Alimony?

Sarah Bronilla is suing her ex-husband, Joshua Rosen, for over $32,000 in alimony. No, not alimony for herself, but for their pampered English bulldog, Lola. The case arising out of New York may be one of the first “dogimony” cases.

As the New York Daily News reports, when Sarah Bronilla and Joshua Rosen separated in 2012 – after six years of marriage – Rosen agreed he would pay Bronilla $200 in monthly “dogimony”, she says in her Manhattan Supreme Court lawsuit against him for pet alimony.

Florida Alimony

In Florida, alimony is governed by the Florida Statutes and relevant case law. The starting point in any alimony case is whether there is an actual need for alimony by a spouse, and the ability of the paying spouse to pay for alimony.

However, Florida Statutes are silent as to pet alimony.

I have written about divorce and pet issues several times. Pet custody, or who gets the pet dog, is a frequent problem. Alaska became the first state to enact a pet custody law.

A bill was introduced in the House of Representatives in Rhode Island which is very similar to the law of Alaska which was enacted this year. The Rhode Island bill requires judges to “consider the best interest of the animal” in a divorce or separation. Currently, there is no such provision in the works in Florida.

Florida does not have any pet specific custody or divorce laws. In fact, the alimony law is written in such a way that the court can only grant alimony to a party, not a pet of the parties.

Just because there is no specific law authorizing pet alimony does not mean: ‘that dog won’t hunt!’ People are free to enter into marital settlement agreements which make provision for support, such as pet alimony, that the law does not.

Those contracts could be enforceable as Mr. Rosen in New York may find out.

New York Pet Alimony

According to the New York complaint, Rosen not only agreed he would pay $200 in monthly pet alimony, or “dogimony”, Rosen also agreed to cover total food costs and half of the vet bills for the pet dog.

But the ‘deadbeat dog dad’ has skipped out on his financial obligations for pet alimony, Bronilla alleges in the lawsuit filed in Manhattan Supreme Court.

Bronilla says she has had to cover $12,000 for upkeep, $18,000 for food and $2,335 for health costs for the pooch, described as “fawn-colored” in the lawsuit.

In addition to the unpaid pet alimony, Bronilla claims Rosen owes her around another $100,000 related to their settlement agreement, including money from a portion of a business he sold.

The New York Daily News article is here.

 

Pet Custody News

When couples get divorced, children are not the only ones who can get caught in custody disputes. As the New York Times reports, pet custody fights over the beloved chocolate lab can be just as painful.

Status of Pet Custody

Pet custody cases are becoming more and more prevalent around the country. That is because state lawmakers and advocacy groups are promoting the notion that the legal system should act in the best interests of animals.

Pets are becoming a recognized part of the family. About 15 years ago, states began to allow people to leave their estates to care for their pets. Recently, courts have gone so far as to award shared custody, visitation and even alimony payments to pet owners.

One case in San Diego that gained national headlines featured a pointer-greyhound mix named Gigi, who was the focus of a contentious divorce between Dr. Stanley and Linda Perkins.

At first, they were granted joint custody of Gigi, but neither human was satisfied with the arrangement. A court fight followed that took two years and cost about $150,000 in legal fees.

The court case involved a court-ordered “bonding study” conducted by an animal behaviorist and a videotape, “A Day in the Life of Gigi,” showing the dog spending time with Ms. Perkins, who was ultimately awarded sole custody.

It has been reported that there has been a 27% increase in pet-custody cases over the past five years, with 20% of respondents citing an increase in cases where judges had deemed pets an asset in a divorce.

Pet custody is not limited to just dogs and cats. Owners of exotic pets — including an iguana, an African grey parrot, a python, and a giant 130-pound turtle — have been involved in disputes.

Current Pet Custody Legislation

I’ve written about pet custody issues before. Alaska became the first state to enact a pet custody law. The law allows a court to consider the animal’s well-being. The measure, which defines animals as a “vertebrate living creature not a human being,” took effect in January of this year.

Currently, a bill was introduced in the House of Representatives in Rhode Island which is very similar to the law of Alaska which was enacted this year. The Rhode Island bill requires judges to “consider the best interest of the animal” in a divorce or separation.

The Times article also notes the popular theory that pet custody battles flare when there are fewer or no children in a family, and pets have become the focus of a couple’s emotions.

Historically, judges in divorce cases have gone through the same steps in determining pet ownership as they did with property. They figured out which property belonged to the couple, how much each piece was worth, and whether some agreement was in place about who got what.

Florida Pet Custody Law

Florida doesn’t have pet custody or visitation laws. Florida courts are already overwhelmed with the supervision of custody, visitation, and support matters related to the protection of children. Accordingly, Florida courts have not or cannot undertake the same responsibility as to animals.

A chocolate lab may be considered a member of the family to you, but under Florida law, your dog “Brownie” is just personal property to be divided in divorce in Florida.

Not all states have ruled out a visitation schedule for dogs. For instance, while Texas also views dogs as personal property, in one case a Texas court authorized visitation.

The New York Times article is here.

 

Big News on Pet Custody

Who gets the dog in a divorce? Although pets are more like family than property, divorce courts have treated them like chattel. But in a new twist, Alaska changed its law to allow for pet custody rights.

As the Washington Post reports, although pet custody battles are often passionate and sometimes truly wacky, courts think of them more prosaically: as part of the “property distribution” in a divorce.

As of January 17, 2017, courts in Alaska will begin granting custody of pets when their humans divorce. This is a dramatic change, because four-legged family members are traditionally classified as “property.”

The amendment makes Alaska the first state in the country to require courts to take “into consideration the well-being of the animal” and to explicitly empower judges to assign joint custody of pets. In a blog post, the Animal Legal Defense Fund called the well-being provision “groundbreaking and unique.”

I’ve written about Florida and pets in divorces before. Your chocolate lab may be considered a member of the family to you, but under Florida law, “Brownie” is merely chattel – personal property to be divided in divorce. A judge lacks authority to grant custody or award visitation or a timesharing schedule to personal property.

As the Alaska amendment shows, there is a shift occurring in our society in which the pet is considered more a member of the family and becomes a part of the battle when the family disintegrates.

Some people argue that pets should stay with the children; others think they should remain with whoever purchased them, or whoever was their primary caretaker.

Often couples purchase pets with shared money, but rarely do people want to be “bought out” of their share of Fido, as might happen with a car or a house.

The Alaska amendment was sponsored by former representative Liz Vazquez (R) and the late representative Max Gruenberg, a Democrat and family lawyer who told the Associated Press in 2015 that he’d once handled a divorce that resulted in joint custody of a sled dog team.

The Alaska bill also allows courts to include pets in domestic violence protective orders and requires the owners of pets seized in cruelty or neglect cases to cover the cost of their shelter.

The Washington Post article is here.