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Who Gets the Family Pet in a Divorce?

 Posted on August 22, 2017 in Complex Property Litigation

Texas complex litigation attorneyAlthough many families treat their pets like members of the family, the reality is that for the purposes of deciding who gets the pets in a divorce, animals are legally considered property in Texas. This means that if a couple is unable to come to an out-of-court agreement about who will get custody of the pet, the court will assess the situation based on community property law. This can have unfair results, so if you are going through a divorce and have questions about who will retain custody of your family pet, please contact a family law attorney who has experience in complex property litigation matters.

Community Property Rule

Because animals are considered property in Texas, courts will apply the standard community property rules when deciding pet custody issues. This means that the court will attempt to divide the property in a way that is equitable. When a family pet is the property at issue, the court may assess who has historically been the pet’s primary caretaker, evaluate each spouse’s living situation, and if a couple has children, determine whether they are especially attached to the animal.

However, if a person can prove that the pet actually constitutes separate property, he or she will be able to get primary custody of the animals. This would require the individual to provide evidence that:

  • He or she owned the pet prior to marriage;
  • The pet was given as a gift during the marriage; or
  • The pet was willed or bequeathed.

If a pet is valuable, such as a show animal or a purebred horse, the court may consider it a valuable asset. If the parties cannot come to an agreement about who will retain the animal, the judge may order that it be sold and the proceeds divided fairly between the two. To avoid this, it is in many couple’s best interests to try to come to an agreement outside of court. Many families are able to work out a visitation schedule, in which both parties have access to the animal on certain days.

Otherwise, the parties should come prepared to demonstrate to the judge that retaining custody of the animal is in its best interest. This could include proof of being the animal’s primary caretaker or evidence of having a larger residence or backyard than the other party.

Contact an Aggressive Property Litigation Attorney

If you live are concerned about who will retain custody of the family pet, feel free to contact Powers and Kerr, PLLC to discuss your case with an experienced Leander complex litigation attorney who can explain your legal options. A member of our legal team is standing by and eager to address your divorce-related questions and concerns.



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