If you own a dog, you likely consider them full-fledged family members. You love them; you see them as one of your children, and you cannot imagine parting with them. The problem is that your spouse feels the same way. So you can imagine the back-and-forth bickering between divorcing spouses who both expect to keep their fur baby. One or both of you may have even asked your lawyer, “Who gets to keep the family dog after the divorce?”
Here is the deal: In Texas, there is no such thing as pet custody. It does not matter if it is a dog, cat, horse, goldfish, or exotic lizard. They are property in the eyes of the law, meant to be divided in a manner that is just and right.
How the court determines the ownership of the family dog
To determine ownership of the family dog, the court will need to know if your pet is separate property or community property.
Separate property is defined as property — the house, land, retirement accounts, furniture, jewelry, etc. — that came before the marriage and cannot be legally split.
Community property is property acquired or created during the marriage, with each spouse sharing equal ownership.
Applying the same rules to your dog, little Buster is separate property if one spouse brought him into the marriage. Therefore, that spouse retains full ownership over the animal after the divorce. Conversely, if both spouses brought Buster into their home during the marriage, there is shared ownership.
But how do you split a family dog?
Deciding who gets the family dog after the divorce can be a touchy subject. Before the court rules on any form of community property, there are a few things you can do to maintain control and work things out amicably:
- The couple reaches an agreement — In some situations, divorcing couples could reach a mutual agreement on their own to split time with the dog, similar to a visitation schedule with a child.
- Look at each spouse’s living situation — If one spouse will be living in an apartment complex that does not allow pets, the answer to who the dog lives with is pretty easy. The ability to care for the pet may also come into play if one spouse works long hours, travels a lot, or does not have the financial means to properly ensure the dog’s well-being.
- Look at custody of the children — If one spouse has custody of the children, you both may agree to have the family dog be in the same home. In other cases, spouses may agree that one takes the kids and the other gets the dog.
Because Texas law does not recognize “pet custody,” a judge will likely allow you to make whatever agreement you want when it comes to the family dog. If you cannot agree and are both fighting tooth and nail over the dog, then the court will decide what is just and right.
You or your spouse can help your case by presenting any pertinent information.
- Ownership papers that show you as their registered owner
- Receipts that show you were the one who handled the vet bills, visits, training, toys, pet food, etc.
- Proof that you will provide the best possible home in comparison to your spouse
- Evidence that your work schedule allows for you to care for the dog properly
Call Nelson Law Group today!!
If divorce is the answer, you need a trusted advisor to guide you through each stage of your divorce and help you deal with the stress that naturally comes with that. We work diligently to achieve a result that ensures you receive what you are entitled to as you move forward onto the next stage of your life. The Nelson Law Group brings nearly two decades of experience in family law to each and every case.