Dealing with Family Pets in Divorce Cases

After investing money and time into sharing a family pet, Texas couples may be surprised that they both may not have a stake in the ownership of their pet. This is because Texas divorce courts follow the lead of other courts across the country that treat pets like pieces of property.

Research shows that about 62 percent of families own at least one family pet. The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers adds to this analysis by showing that the number of divorce disputes regarding pet care and ownership have increased over the last few years. Dogs are the most common animal to trigger a fight, followed by cats. However, other animals may also be at the center of such disputes due to the high value of them or the cost to care for these pets, such as horses and animals that are bred and sold for a profit. In this last situation, the animals may be treated as business assets.

Most courts will only award ownership of the family pet to one of the parties in the divorce. Courts do not want to order a custody decision or visitation schedule regarding the pet because these types of orders require continuous supervision and intervention by the court. However, the court may weigh a few factors that are similar to custody determinations, such as which party has a work schedule that is better aligned with being able to provide care and supervision to the pet.

In some cases, a court may favor the party that winds up with custody of the children, whether the custody is pursuant to an agreement between the parents or made by court order. A divorce attorney can create and offer several arguments as to why the client should be awarded ownership of the pet.

Source: Forbes, “How Are Pets Handled In Divorce?“, Jeff Landers, April 17, 2014

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