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Pet Custody After A Divorce

There is another divorce issue for many couples to consider besides children, assets, and support: pets. One study estimates that almost half the households in the United States have a dog or cat. Custody issues involving pets can provide much friction between divorcing spouses. Although courts in Texas have remained relatively silent on determining custody rights for pets, this article will explain the relevant law deciding pet issues in Texas.

The Law Regarding Pet Custody

A court will view a pet as personal property. In accordance with legal definitions of property, pets are viewed as the personal property of their owners. Because pets are viewed as property, courts refuse to arrange joint-custody situations for pets. Courts also refuse to have custody hearings to determine which spouse is a better choice for taking care of the pet. As personal property a court will view the pet as either community property which is owned by both spouses or separate property that is owned by only one spouse.

  • Community Property. A court is likely to apply community property rules to determine the ownership of a pet. A court may determines which spouse is given what particular community property, which means either spouse may be awarded the pet.
  • Separate Property. A spouse is likely to be able to keep a spouse without having to arrange any terms with a spouse if the court views the pet as separate property. To be considered separate property, a pet must be owned prior to marriage, obtained as a gift, or inherited through a will.

Advice To Determine Issues About Pet Custody

To avoid potentially losing a pet during a divorce, individuals can take the following steps to protect ownership of the pet:

  • For individuals who have children who are attached to the pet, to ensure that the divorce has as little a negative effect on child as possible consider, individuals often agree to let the pet go to the parent with primary custody.
  • Divorce Agreement. Given the absence of laws and the refusal of courts to determine joint-custody arrangements, divorcing couples can create shared responsibilities between each other concerning the pet. To ensure that these terms are maintained, the parties can decide to include terms regarding the pet in the divorce agreement.
  • Multiple Pets. For individuals with multiple pets, these individuals often choose to not separate the animals between spouses because doing so can negatively impact the pets.
  • Prenuptial Agreement. An individual can specifically write out the terms of pet ownership in a prenuptial agreement. These terms can be specific enough to include the rights and responsibilities of each spouse concerning the pet.

When individuals face issues regarding pet ownership after a divorce, skilled legal representation can prove vital. For example, a talented lawyer can successfully argue that a pet should be placed with a client because the client is the best individual to care for the pet. Our Houston lawyers are well-trained in a variety of divorce issues including pet ownership and fight zealously for clients so contact Lindamood & Robinson, P.C. today.

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