April 16, 2019

Taking Good Care of Our Pets After Divorce

Girl with a cute puppy dog outdoors


     In March we are besieged with "March Madness" – the NCAA National Basketball Championship were sports enthusiasts, who are avid supporters of the participant universities, sit on the edge of their seats during the weeks of March to see who will eventually be crowned National Champion.  While the United States is beset with March madness, in England they have Crufts.  Crufts is proclaimed to be the greatest and largest dog event in the world.  Tens of thousands of dogs participate in hundreds of categories. The Crufts International Dog Show not only deals with the best of breed.  It also contains agility trials, rescue dog agility trials, obedience trials, and many other contests in which the canines participate.  Crufts has been going on for over a hundred twenty years.  Anyone who loves or is dedicated to their pet canine can understand the frenzy and support that this International event garners.


We love and treat our canine companions as family members. Statistics indicate that approximately 87% of Americans consider their dogs a member of their              families. Even though the law in the United States primarily treats our pet companions as property.  It is not unusual that divorcing spouses will often argue vociferously and spend large sums of money in attempting to maintain their relationship and or contact/ with their pet companion. Once the divorce is over, what will happen to your friend and companion in the event that you unfortunately and unexpectedly pass away before they do?  Animals who outlive their owners face an uncertain fate.  Under the best of circumstances, a family member or friend may take care for your pet for the rest of its life.  If not, your pampered pet companion may end up going to a shelter, be euthanized, or put out the front door. 

An informal agreement for the care of your pet is not legally sufficient.  In addition, drafting a provision in your Will may not provide the protection that you desire your pet to possess.  It often takes time for a Will to be probated.  During that uncertain period of time your pet can be neglected and/or may be taken to a shelter. 

The best option is to set up some type of revocable pet trust, or a trust which has in one of its terms the care and maintenance of your faithful pet companion.  Please remember in the structure of your trust to consider the following components:

  1. Appoint a caretaker (who should sign all documents establishing an individual pet trust);
  2. Identify alternative caretakers for your pet in the event that your first nominated candidate in unable or unwilling to perform;
  3. Outline the types of care, maintenance and housing you wish your pet to receive;
  4. How the “end of life “decisions should be made for your pet;
  5. Each State has different laws regarding trust for pets, make sure that you review your State Law and its requirements before you obtain your pet trust.

Remember, in the eyes of the State of Florida and other State governments, your pet is property.  Legally, your pet is no different than your house, furniture, car, or electronics.  Consequently, once you are divorced your attorney should advise you to change your Will and Trust documents.  When you do so, make sure that your pet is taken care of. 

Board Certified Family and Marital Law Attorney, Alimony and Spousal Support