When many Texas couples go through a divorce, they think of property division – who gets what. They may think about the house, vehicles, vacation homes, retirement accounts and of course, children, if there are any. However, another beloved family member is often left out of the picture: the family dog. Unlike children, pets are considered personal property. Therefore, fighting for custody can be a huge legal battle during a divorce.
If you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse can’t agree on who gets the beloved pooch, the case will be decided by the courts. There has been an increase in custody cases involving family pets in the past several years. This is because many of us consider Fido as a family member – almost like a child. This is especially true for couples who had no children of their own.
When pet custody cases go to court, the judges often make decisions based on the laws of the state. However, some have become more creative and treated the dog like children. For example, they may consider the spouses’ testimonies and even bring in expert witnesses to determine an agreement that is in the dog’s best interests. Some judges have awarded joint custody, visitation rights and even pet support payments.
Judges will make decisions based on various factors, such as who can spend the most time with the dog, who has the most space available to allow the dog to play and who is financial capable of providing for the pet. If either spouse has ever abused or neglected the dog, that will be taken into consideration as well.
In a divorce, it’s best to consider all assets – including family pets. Those who wish to keep their pet after a divorce might discuss this possibility with a lawyer in order to reach an agreement with the other spouse.
The Huffington Post, “Who Gets the Family Dog After Divorce?” Nancy Kay, Nov. 10, 2013