The Future of Your Four-Legged Friend
While many consider their pet to be a beloved member of their family, Texas law simply views them as property. This view on animals subjects your pet to the same treatment that assets get in divorce, meaning that your animal’s future is based on the same factors as community and separate property division.
Separate Property Pets
When deciding the pet’s future, the court will first determine when the furry friend was adopted, thus understanding whether they qualify as community or separate property. If one party adopted the animal before marriage, the court will likely find the animal to be separate property and grant that individual continued custody of their animal. Similarly, if the pet is an emotional support or service animal, it will be awarded to the spouse who relies on its assistance.
Community Property Pets
If the animal was welcomed into the family during the course of the marriage, they are likely considered a shared asset. In this case, the judge will base their decision on a number of factors, including:
- Each party’s schedules and the time they have available to care for the pet
- Whether either party neglected the animal
- Who fed the animal
- Who paid for veterinary care
- Who took care of the animal most often
- Who walked the dog and bonded with them more
In addition to these factors which determine the best interest of the pet, a court will typically consider the child custody award, and favor keeping the pet with children who have formed a close bond with the animal.
Alternatively, if couples wish to avoid leaving this decision up to a judge, the couple has a few options. The judge will typically honor any decisions made in mutual accord by the couple in a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement. The pair may also choose to pursue collaborative divorce or mediation, in which they can reach a decision on their own and have it accepted and enforced.