When dividing assets, you consider your property and what it’s worth — your real estate, your vehicles, that hand-carved teak shelf you bought in Indonesia on your honeymoon. It may surprise you to find out that Florida law considers your dog as property and may even place a monetary value on him to divide.

Our pets may feel like family, but the Florida Bar explains that many states assess them only by their market value. Instead of letting your furry loved one go to divorce court, consider other options like mediation to come to a more satisfactory arrangement.

Pets and property division

Federal law does not address pets in divorce, so their handling falls to the states to decide. States have taken different approaches in dealing with this issue. The most pet-friendly states consider domestic animals much like children — evaluating their best interests and sometimes even establishing shared custody arrangements. Others, like Florida, value them for only what they would be worth on the open market.

If the idea of appraising your cat’s sale value turns your stomach, take heart; there are other options. And mediation offers many benefits beyond the subject of pets.

Negotiating your own agreement

When property division goes to court without a prior agreement, the judge assumes decision power over your family and your possessions. In contrast to custody decisions, property division rulings are typically final.

You don’t have to place your future into the hands of a third party. Mediators exist to help you and your ex negotiate your own divorce arrangement, allowing you the agency to make decisions together.

The two of you are splitting for a reason, so we understand that it can be difficult to compromise with one another. A mediator can help as a neutral party to offer perspective. If you need additional help, bringing your lawyer to a mediation session may be a good idea.

Mediation sessions are confidential, and any agreement you sign is legally binding, so come prepared to negotiate a decision you can live with.