Pet Custody and other Considerations in a Texas Divorce?

Custody of Pets in Divorce

Many people have heard that divorce is hard and expensive. However, not many people think about pet custody in a divorce. As a Houston Divorce Lawyer, I will discuss applicable law and important considerations in regards to pets in a Texas Divorce Case.

Pet Considerations During Divorce

During a divorce, not only you and your spouse are affected, but often pets too. They can suffer and even become tools in the hands of an ex-spouse aiming to cause distress. Key considerations about your pet in the context of divorce include:

Threatening a Pet is Family Violence

If a spouse threatens or harms a pet, it constitutes family violence. In such instances, you can file a police report or seek a restraining order. Notably, Montgomery County’s Standing Order, which activates upon filing for divorce, includes provisions to protect pets.

Texas law forbids anyone named in a protective order from possessing an animal. The Texas Penal Code, amended in 2013, clarifies the meaning of possessing a pet, assistance animal, or companion animal.

Who Gets to Keep the Pet in a Divorce?

You should consider who will get the pet in the divorce. In some of the divorces I have handled, we included special sections for visitation and shared expenses during and after the divorce. Some people choose to share the pet after a divorce.

However, if you and your spouse decide not to go in that direction, a Court will base its decision on property law in Texas. To argue that your pet pooch should be considered your separate property, you must prove that you owned the pet before the marriage or that someone gifted or willed the pet to you during the marriage.

Pets may play an important value in a divorce even though market value may be $10 for a rescue or thousands for special breed, the intrinsic and emotional value can hang up the settlement of a multimillion dollar divorce for the “pet parent”. Pet custody disputes are reportedly on the rise according to the April 2014 issue of Forbes.

Something a court will considering when deciding who will get the pet include to following factors:

  1. Which party primarily takes care of the pet’s daily needs such as feeding, walking, grooming, and general care?
  2. Which party is the pet primarily “attached” to?
  3. Which party is responsible for training? And
  4. After the divorce which party is better able to financially care for the pet?

Pet Costs during the Divorce

Custody of Pets in Divorce

At some point during the divorce possibly in mediation or Temporary Orders expenses and costs will be a consideration. When you are figuring up your monthly expenses for your attorney and for the family law judge, make sure pet costs including medical and grooming.

A divorce is an often times stressful process for your family and family pet. The lawyers and staff at the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC are not only experienced advocates for the rights of human beings, but are pet lovers as well. Pet owner or not, we are eager to take on your case and represent your interests.

Negotiating Pet Custody: Strategies and Tips

Divorce can be a challenging process, and when pets are involved, it becomes even more complex. Pets are often considered part of the family, making custody decisions particularly emotional. In Texas, as in many jurisdictions, pets are legally regarded as property, but for many, they are much more than that.

This section of the article delves into the strategies and tips for negotiating pet custody, focusing on mediation and collaborative approaches, and highlights the key elements to include in a pet custody agreement.

Mediation and Collaborative Approaches

Understanding Mediation: Mediation is a voluntary process where a neutral third party helps the divorcing couple reach an agreement. It’s less adversarial than court proceedings and can be more conducive to reaching a mutually satisfactory arrangement regarding pet custody.

Benefits of Mediation:

  • Reduces Conflict: Mediation can help reduce animosity and encourage a cooperative approach, which is essential when you’ll continue to co-parent a pet.
  • Flexibility: Unlike court rulings, mediation allows for more creative and personalized solutions that best suit the needs of the pet and the family.
  • Confidentiality: Mediation is a private process, which helps keep sensitive family matters out of the public record.
  • Collaborative Divorce: This approach involves each party having their own attorney, but all parties agree to resolve issues without going to court. Collaborative divorce can include mental health professionals or neutral financial advisors, which can be particularly helpful in complex pet custody situations.
  • Communicating Effectively: Focus on the wellbeing of the pet rather than personal grievances. Open, honest, and respectful communication can lead to more amicable solutions.
  • Professional Guidance: In some cases, involving a pet behavior expert or a veterinarian can provide insights into the best living arrangements for the pet.

Drafting a Pet Custody Agreement: Key Elements to Include

Custody of Pets in Divorce
  • Custody and Visitation: Clearly outline the person who will have custody and the structure of visitation. Consider alternating weeks, months, or another arrangement that best suits the pet.
  • Expenses: Specify the division or sharing of expenses related to the pet’s care, including veterinary visits, food, grooming, and insurance.
  • Decision-Making: Make decisions regarding the pet’s health and wellbeing. Determine if one party will have sole decision-making authority, or if both parties will need mutual consent for major decisions.
  • Travel and Relocation: State the provisions for scenarios where one party wishes to move. Define how such a move will impact the custody arrangement.
  • Dispute Resolution: Decide on the method for resolving future disputes about the pet. Choose between returning to mediation or another resolution method.
  • End-of-Life Decisions: Agree on the approach to handling end-of-life decisions for the pet, despite the difficulty of such considerations.
  • Legality and Enforceability: Ensure that the agreement is legally binding. Have it reviewed by a lawyer to ensure it complies with local laws and court requirements.
  • Flexibility for Changes: Life circumstances can change, so it’s wise to include a clause about reassessing the agreement periodically.

In conclusion, when negotiating pet custody in a Texas divorce, a compassionate, collaborative approach coupled with a well-thought-out pet custody agreement can make this difficult process smoother for everyone involved, especially the pet. Remember, the ultimate goal is to ensure the wellbeing and happiness of your beloved animal companion.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, navigating the complexities of pet custody in the context of a Texas divorce presents a unique set of challenges and considerations. As we have explored in the various sections of this article, pets are more than just property; they are beloved members of our families, and their wellbeing is paramount during the emotionally charged process of divorce.


Adobe Stock 62844981[2]If you want to know more about what you can do, CLICK the button below to get your FREE E-book: 16 Steps to Help You Plan & Prepare for Your Texas Divorce

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Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Kingwood Divorce Lawyer

The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding divorce, it’s important to speak with ar Kingwood, TX Divorce Lawyer right away to protect your rights.

A divorce lawyer in Kingwood TX is skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC handles Divorce cases in Spring, Texas, Cypress, Spring, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, Houston, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Liberty County, Chambers County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County and Waller County.

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