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Who will keep our pet after the divorce?

Your pet is a treasured member of your family.  If you are considering filing for divorce, you may be concerned with what will happen to your pet post-divorce.  Texas courts take the position that pets are property, not family members.  Nonetheless, there are steps divorcing couples in Texas can take to ensure their pet is care for in the best manner possible post-divorce, which may include setting out ownership of the pet in your divorce decree.  

Your Pet as Community Property

Under Texas law, pets are considered property.  If you and your spouse cannot agree on who will keep your dog, cat, or other pet post-divorce, then the divorce judge will treat the pet as it would any other asset.  Texas is a community property state, so if the pet was acquired during the marriagee, the judge will assign the pet a value.  As community property, the judge will rule which spouse gets to keep the pet and the spouse that does not will receive a different asset of roughly the same value.  If there are insufficient assets to balance the value of the pet, the court could in theory order that the pet be sold so you can share the proceeds.  Whatever the court rules, it will be included in the divorce decree.

Pets acquired by one spouse before the marriage or pets given to you as a gift or inheritance will be deemed separate property.  Separate property remains the property of the spouse who owns it, meaning that the court will not get involved and the pet will stay yours.  

Custody and Visitation of Your Pet

Texas divorce courts will not issue custody or visitation with a pet because pets are considered property.  However, you and your spouse are free to reach an agreement as to shared custody or visitation on your own.  In deciding who will receive the pet, Texas courts ironically consider factors similar to those weighed in child custody cases, including who spent time with the pet and cared for it during the marriage.  For help fighting to keep your pet post-divorce, contact a divorce lawyer right away.