The relationship you have with your pet is like nothing else. Pets can be man’s (or woman’s!) best friend, a constant companion and a source of comfort – especially during a difficult time. So, it’s no wonder that we often see divorces in which spouses’ greatest source of conflict is deciding who will keep a beloved family dog or cat. If you’re worried that your divorce may affect your relationship with your pet, here’s what you should know.
Texas Law on Pets in Divorce
Currently, Texas law treats family pets the same way it treats property. Courts seek to divide the property equally, deciding who gets the pet the way they would decide who gets any other asset – without regard to a spouse’s personal connection with the pet or where the pet would be happier.
Essentially, the current law treats a beloved family pet the same way it would any other personal property, like a lamp or a desk. In theory, a court could order that a pet be sold and the profits be divided equally between the two spouses.
Courts have explained this decision in the context of resources: Courtrooms are already full of people who are involved in heated child custody disputes or child custody modifications. Courts have said they simply don’t have the resources to hear pet custody cases, too.
The Law Might Be Changing…
Legal experts think that the law may change in the future. In fact, it already has changed in states like Alabama, Vermont, Alaska and California, and a change in the law seems likely in New York. These states have taken first steps to considering “puppy custody” by taking the best interests of a dog into account when determining which spouse the dog should live with.
Legal experts explain the change by taking into account the pet’s significance: Why should the law prevent spouses from dividing time with a pet? After all, the courts already let spouses work through extensive conflict related to inanimate objects. For many people, family pets are much, much more significant than any object.
How to Protect Your “Pet Custody” During a Divorce
So, how can you protect your relationship with your pet during a Texas divorce? If your relationship with your pet is important, mention it to your lawyer right away. Knowing that it is critical, your attorney can strategically work to protect your relationship with the pet during the divorce process. Often, it is possible for your attorney to negotiate with your spouse’s attorney so that the dog or cat lives with you after the divorce.
To get started protecting your relationship with your pet, call the Fort Worth, Arlington, or Keller/Alliance office of Schneider Law Firm, P.C., at 817-755-1852.