These days more and more people are beginning to see and treat their pets as though they are their four legged or winged children. But no matter how much you love them and treat them like family, according to the state of Texas they are property and thus an asset to be divided during a divorce.
Unlike for your children, the Court is not going to set a possession and access schedule for your pets, at least not by default. If your pet is separate property, meaning it was adopted before the marriage, then you will likely be awarded the pet in the divorce. However, if it is determined that the pet is community property, meaning it was adopted during the marriage with community funds, things can become more complicated.
This doesn’t mean that the Court will decide the fate of the family dog the same way as the dining table. Judges are people too who are likely to understand that strong bonds form between people and their pets and vice versa. There are factors that a judge will consider when determining which spouse gets to keep which, pets. These factors include questions such as: Who actually takes care of the animal? Has a spouse been accused of neglecting or abusing the animal? Which spouse will have more time for the animal?
Additionally, if children are involved in divorce the Court will take into account how the pets factor into their best interest. For example, the Court may decide that the children have a very strong bond with the pet, thus the pet should go with the primary parent. Because no matter what, when children are involved their best interests are always the Court’s primary concern.
As I previously mentioned, a judge isn’t going to give a visitation schedule for your pet. What a judge will do is enforce any agreements you and your ex-spouse have regarding them. Meaning that if you have a prenuptial agreement, a postnuptial agreement, or a provision in your divorce decree regarding arrangements between your ex-spouse and the pets, a Court can enforce them against your ex-spouse.
If you want to make sure the dog, cat, lizard, bird, fish, or horse is coming home with you after a divorce, then you need a competent attorney in your corner. One who will fight for you on any issue big or small.