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Pet issues can complicate divorce in Texas

Residents in Houston, Texas, can anticipate that divorce legal issues often involve child custody, child support and property division. However, a recent case about spouses who battled for the custody of their pets may raise concerns that family dogs can be taken into account in the event of divorce.

The following case may easily happen in any household in all 50 states, including Texas. When a Florida couple decided to end their 18-year marriage, the family dog became an issue because both spouses want to take care of their dog and two casts and are emotionally attached. The family dog, named Brewer, reportedly has suffered from separation anxiety since the spouses' separation.

Although both spouses wanted custody of the pets, they were able to settle their conflicts. Both parties agreed to divide the obligations related to the pets, a dog and two cats. The conditions were included in their divorce agreement, wherein the ex-husband is responsible for the medical expenses and the ex-wife will pay for the pet food and vitamins. The former wife is in charge of the daily care of the family pets and is also the sole caretaker of the animals. With these agreements, the spouses hope that the family dog can cope with the divorce more easily.

Most of the time, family members treated their pets as part of the family; however, according to the law, pets are considered personal property. In divorce, pet custody may be granted to the spouse who gets custody of the kids considering that it is in the best interests of the child. Yet, such cases may vary on the state and the situation.

Additionally, sometimes the court may deem family pets to be just another item of property that should be divided. In these instances, the court may consider if the jurisdiction of the case is a community property state or equitable distribution state to determine the division.

On the other hand, spouses who want to protect pets from division by the court may use prenuptial or postnuptial agreements. The parties involved may also prefer to have an agreement that specifically designates the rights and responsibilities of each spouse to the pet.

Source: CBS12 News, "Pet Prenup: Couple Battles Over Who Gets Family Pet," Jenna Caiazzo, Jan. 15, 2013

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