Many married couples have beloved pets. When it comes time to end the marriage, the law requires spouses to divide their marital property and custody of their children. But what happens to the pets? Will Texas courts help determine custody of your cat or dog?
No Pet Custody Orders
Most people have an idea of how child custody works - parents might share physical custody of children, or one parent may be the primary custodial parent. If two parents cannot decide how to share custody, the court will step in and do it for them.
Even though pets are part of the family - and may even feel like children to some pet parents - Texas courts do not handle pet custody determinations. The court will not resolve conflicts between pet parents and will not include a pet custody order in the final divorce judgment. This leaves the decision of who gets the pet largely to the divorcing spouses.
If the spouses can agree on who will take care of the pet, they can often abide by this agreement. What happens if there is an ongoing conflict, and both spouses insist on keeping the pet?
Pets are Considered Property
Even though you might never consider your pet to be property, the law in Texas certainly does. Texas is a community property state, and the law requires spouses to divide all community property in a divorce. In most cases, community property should be divided 50-50, and each spouse keeps their separate property.
Community property is property that spouses acquire during their marriage. Even wages that one spouse earns will be considered to be community property to be divided in a divorce. On the other hand, separate property involves property a spouse owned prior to the marriage or acquired during the marriage through an inheritance or gift that was meant solely for that one person - and not for the marriage.
While it may seem inappropriate to lump your pet in with furniture and assets, the law does require that ownership of a pet is part of the property division determination. First, you must determine whether a pet is community property or not. If you and your spouse got the pet together during your marriage, the pet is likely community property. It can become more complicated if you owned the pet prior to the marriage. In some cases, this might make your pet separate property for you to keep, but in other situations, the care your spouse provided for the pet may mean it will be community property. It is always best to discuss the matter with an experienced attorney.
Consult with a Fort Worth Divorce Attorney for Help Today
Deciding what happens to your pet on your own terms is almost always preferable. However, if you and your spouse are fighting over your pet in the divorce, you might need to engage in mediation or take the matter to court. The Law Office of J. Kevin Clark is ready to help, so please call (817) 241-3328 or contact us online today.