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Who Gets the Family Pet in a Divorce?

Know that you have options during this difficult time

For many families, figuring out who gets the family pet is a very painful part of the divorce process. While Fido is a member of the family (and worth fighting for), in the eyes of the law, pets are property in the same way the car, the house, etc. is. That’s not quite the same as the child custody determination, which is always based on whatever is in the best interest of the child.

Therefore, unless you and your ex come to your own amicable agreement as to who gets the family pet, or how you plan to split time with it, the decision as to who gets the pet depends upon how your state divides property in divorce.

The Law in Texas

Texas, for example, is a community property state, thus most-all assets (and property) acquired during marriage is split equitably. That is, of course, unless something is considered to be “separate” property, such as property that was owned prior to marriage or inherited before, during, or after the marriage.

If Both of You Want Fido, You Have Options

If your pet is not arguably your own, separate property, and both you and your spouse want custody of it, you and your attorney can work on addressing time with the family pet in your divorce agreement. Some options include:

  • Co-owning the pet, developing a custody schedule and provisions regarding who is paying for what and when;
  • The pet’s schedule can coincide with the children’s schedule if the children are attached to the pet;
  • You can negotiate and give up an item in exchange for the pet; or
  • You can ask the court to make the pet custody decision. Both you and your ex have the right to ask the judge for temporary, sole, or joint possession of and responsibility for your pet.

It’s Different for Service Animals

Note that, when it comes to service animals – because they are trained to provide assistance to a specific person and are covered under the Americans With Disabilities Act – this type of pet is not subject to divorce rules that otherwise apply to other property. Service animals stay with the individual who needs the service animal, and if both individuals need the service animal, this is something that the attorneys involved in the divorce will need to address in the divorce agreement and/or in court similar to other property.

Texas Divorce & Pet Custody Attorneys

At Scott M. Brown & Associates, we understand how important your pets are to you, especially during the divorce process, when emotions are sometimes running high. If you need assistance in ensuring that your pet is not taken from you in your divorce, contact our Texas divorce attorneys today for guidance. We serve Brazoria, Galveston, and Harris Counties.

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