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What happens to pets in a Texas divorce?

Do you know the legal rules for deciding which spouse gets to keep a pet after divorce?

For pet lovers, a furry, feathery or scaly friend can feel like a member of the family. But by definition, divorce means family changes. If you are getting divorced in Texas, learning a little more about how the law views pets in divorce can help you get a better idea of what to expect for your four-legged companion as you transition into a new single life.

Legally speaking, pets considered property

You likely have some concept of child custody in the legal system. If parents and their lawyers are unable to settle on workable child custody arrangements in a divorce, the court will take into account the arguments of each party and make a decision based on the best interests of the child or children.

But even though your pet might sometimes feel like a child, decisions about what is to become of domestic animals after a divorce are very different from child custody determinations. Legally speaking, a pet is considered to be personal property.

In property division, debts and assets of the divorcing partners are split up. Texas is a community property state, meaning that property acquired by either spouse (including wages) during the marriage is generally presumed to belong to both spouses equally. Community property is not always split on a 50-50 basis, but a 50-50 split is common absent convincing arguments that some other arrangement would be fairer.

There are a handful of exceptions to the general rule that everything you own is community property, and some assets may be “separate property” – that is, belonging to only one spouse, and therefore not subject to division. For example, an inheritance received by one spouse during the marriage that was not commingled with marital assets would be separate property. Gifts and items owned before the marriage are other examples of possible separate property.

If your pet does not arguably qualify as your own separate property, you have a few potential options. It is possible to co-own a pet on an ongoing basis with your ex spouse by providing provisions related to care expenses for the animal and developing a custody schedule. If there are children involved, sometimes this option works particularly well, as the schedule of the pet can be tailored so that it simple accompanies the child or children. You can also try to give up some other type of property in settlement negotiations in order to secure full ownership of the pet.

If your pet does not qualify as separate property and you are unable to come to some sort of agreement with your spouse, you can always fall back on asking the court to make a decision as to what will become of your pet after the divorce.

Pets can help you through a divorce, and a lawyer can help you keep your pets

In most divorces, emotions run high; having an animal companion by your side can not only help you feel better during the divorce process, it can help you move on with your life after the divorce. To help get the best outcome possible for you and your pet, get in touch with a Texas family law attorney as soon as possible. The earlier you start planning for your divorce, the better your odds will be at a successful outcome.

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