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Who gets to keep the dog in a divorce?

Until recently, judges across Texas and the United States who were presiding over divorce cases would often treat shared pets in the same manner they would other shared “assets,” such as vehicles or real estate. Increasingly, however, judges across the nation are starting to consider pets in the same way they would children, meaning they may consider the overall wellbeing of the pet before deciding with whom it will live.

According to Psychology Today, nearly 40 percent of modern divorces involve parties who are fighting over dogs, and this figure is likely to rise as more couples choose not to have children in favor of keeping pets. Until recently, though, court systems would consider factors such as the monetary value of the dog before making determinations. Now, many courts across the country are considering the “best interests of the dog” before making pet custody decisions, with California leading the charge.

Starting in January of 2019, California parties who are going through divorces may petition for sole or joint custody of the pet in a very similar manner to the way they would for a child. The new law also dictates that California courts must consider the “best interests of the dog” when issuing decisions about pet custody, which means the court may consider factors such as who is home more and who has more time to devote to the care of the pet. While, to date, California stands alone in adopting official legislation regarding pet custody, there is a very real chance that other states may soon follow suit.

This information about what happens to the family pet during divorce is educational, only, and is not a substitute for legal advice.

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