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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.

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complex custody, family pet, high asset divorce, Leander divorce attorney, pet custody, Round Rock complex divorce attorney, child custody disputesStatistics show that half of all marriages end in divorce. And according to the Humane Society, 62 percent of households in this country have pets. For many divorcing couples, those pets become part of complex divorce settlement negotiations, and can often turn as contentions as child custody disputes.

A survey conducted by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) revealed an increase of over 20 percent in the number of pet custody cases handled by family law attorneys. Many courts are now allowing pet custody cases, while others consider the pet to be an asset included in the matrimonial estate.

In the survey, almost 90 percent of pet custody cases centered around dogs, while the family cat was the issue in 5 percent of the cases.

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Posted on in Child Custody
Pet Custody in Divorce IMAGEAccording to San Antonio Magazine, the "late author Nora Ephron once compared having a baby to throwing a hand grenade into a marriage." This could be one reason that more and more married couples are opting to not have children, and those that do are less likely to have more than two. According to the U.S. Census Bureau Statistical Abstract, in 1980 there were 28,528,000 families in America without their own children. By 2010, this number had risen dramatically to 43,615,000. Similarly, the average number of people per American family dropped from 3.29 in 1980 to 3.16 in 2010. Arguably, this makes divorce easier—couples without children who choose to split have far less issues to decide upon, namely child custody and child support. Yet couples without children aren't necessarily going it alone. For many childless couples, pets have become "replacement" children. And deciding pet custody issues can often be as complicated as child custody.

According to a publication released by the Michigan State University College of Law, "pets are considered to be personal property, capable of human ownership and control." This means that the laws regarding pet custody during divorce are meant to benefit the humans in the relationship, not necessarily the pet—unlike the laws regarding child custody. And yet because pets are beginning, in many cases, to be regarded as highly as children in some relationships, some courts are beginning to change the perception that pets should be regarded as property. These courts are, according to the MSU publication, "willing to treat pets more like children." This has, so far, been seen most often when considering custody of dogs. Courts have also, according to MSU, "awarded shared custody, visitation, and alimony payments to the owners."

If you or someone you know is considering divorce and have pet custody issues to decide upon, don't go through it alone. The most important first step is to contact a dedicated Texas family law attorney today. Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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