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Disputes about companion animals can make Texas divorces messy

On Behalf of | Sep 1, 2021 | Divorce

Some of the messiest, most expensive divorce issues involve dependent family members. Parents with young children may fight bitterly for custody.

Many modern couples may have chosen to expand their family with the inclusion of a dog or a cat. In some Texas families, horses are a cornerstone of how the family lives and are important to individual family members.

The animals that you consider part of your family can easily cause as much conflict in your Texas divorce as human children could. What happens with your beloved animals during a Texas divorce?

In Texas, family law judges treat pets like property

In a small number of states, including California, the judge presiding over a divorce can give pets in-depth consideration. They might arrange for visitation or even shared pet custody if they believe that is in the best interest of the animal.

Unfortunately, that approach is not an option in a Texas divorce. Texas treats pets like possessions. They don’t have the right to have their interests considered in the legal proceedings. Instead, they have a value assigned to them.

If the judge believes the pet is marital property, they will make a decision that ultimately determines who keeps the animal. If they believe the animal is separate property, then the spouse who technically owns the pet will retain it after the divorce.

Couples may fight bitterly in court trying to establish that the animal should be theirs or to convince a judge to allocate it to them as part of the property division process. Such proceedings inevitably end with heartbreak for one of the pet parents involved.

There is a workaround available for some couples

It could be possible for you and your ex to arrange for shared pet custody or visitation. If you approach divorce collaboratively, you can negotiate a pet custody or visitation arrangement on your own terms outside of court.

You could include those details in the settlement documents that you file as part of your divorce proceedings. While a judge won’t take the time to create a shared pet custody arrangement, they can approve a settlement that includes such a plan.

Identifying the shared property that matters the most to you can help you push for a positive outcome in the property division proceedings of your divorce.